Xena, Gabrielle, Callisto, Janice Covington, Melinda Pappas and all other characters who have appeared in the syndicated series Xena: Warrior Princess, together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MCA/Universal and Renaissance Pictures. No copyright infringement was intended in the writing of this fan fiction. All other characters, their backstory, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be sold or used for profit in any way. Copies of this story may be made for private use only and must include all disclaimers and copyright notices. In my world the series Xena: Warrior Princess ended with the episode The Ides of March. Yes, I know When Fates Collide was a nifty episode written by Barbara Edenís niece, but after two craptastic seasons it just ainít enough to acknowledge any of the half-assed shit TPTB threw at us. So, for the purposes of this little tale, Callisto was never neutered with that "Callisto-Lite" bullshit, we didnít have the Eve bullshit, we didnít have the twenty-five year gap bullshit and of course the stupid thing with the mermaids never happened.
This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. You might also want to consider moving. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story. Like, duh. Please also read the "Disturbing Content Warning/Disclaimer" because sexually, this story has some of that too.
DISTURBING CONTENT WARNING/DISCLAIMER:
This story is called "Callisto" and a pretty good chunk of it is about her. Yes, there are uber characters who have grand adventures, but a lot of it is about our beloved goddess of rage and what made her so. As you might expect, Callisto didnít have the happiest of childhoods. If you donít want to read about some really disturbing things that happened to this child after the Warrior Princess descended on her village, then you probably donít want to read this story. I am absolutely not kidding about how awful and dark some of this stuff is. Were I not already in therapy Iíd think I should be for thinking this stuff up in the first place. Sure, there is brilliantly witty dialogue, enjoyable action and hopefully hot sex (I did write this after all), but there is a lot of sadness too. Really despair inducing sadness. Icky, dark, dark sadness- especially in the second dream sequence. A bunch of shit happens that all too often befalls too many innocent kids. I wonít mind if you choose to read something else, seriously, I wonít. Honest.
Authorís note: This one is for all the broken children who get fucked over through no fault of their own before getting much of a chance. Itís also for the damaged adults they grow into. The world is a very cold place and you shouldnít have to discover that when youíre still attached to your teddy bear.
By Bat Morda
Started: 3/15/06 Finished: Halloween 2006
"The dream was never over, the dream has just begun"I remember it being a very hot windy summer. I might have been seven or eight years old. My sister and I would occasionally splash water from the horse troughs at each other to cool off. My mother would pretend to be upset but we knew she didnít mean it. From time to time we would join other families in our village on outings to the sea. I think I love these memories the best. The smell of the salt water and the beautiful azure expanse that seemed to go on forever; there was nothing like it. My mother would pack a special lunch for those trips. She made the best bread in the village. She traded loaves of fresh bread and eggs from our hens for meat pies and always got the sharp cheese from our neighbor. That was a special treat for us; that and the wine of course. Cirran wine was unlike anything else. We had the finest vineyards in the region by far, and the wine makers of Cirra were well known throughout Greece. To be Cirran was to know wine, love the sea and live a life that could only be described as peaceful and prosperous. Even my family never wanted for anything, in spite of the fact that my father had died when I was a baby. The people of Cirra took care of their own and had a generous, loving spirit. That was before she came.
Straight Back ñ Stevie Nicks
I remember it was before suppertime; my sister and I had set the plates on the table and mother had a most delicious stew in a pot over our fire. As I said, it was summer, the sun was still bright even though it was time for the evening meal. We heard a commotion outside and it was more than the sound of the wind that had been ripping through Cirra for several days. The butcherís son ran past our window screaming that an army was coming through the vineyards. My sister and I didnít understand and honestly I donít think my mother did either. The people of Cirra had always gotten along with our neighbors, joining with them to fight back the occasional intruder, most often to help in the event of a fire or other disaster. But Neleus was not mistaken and moments after he ran past our home I heard the thunder of hoof beats.
It started slowly, almost as if trying to remember what the sound of hoof beats might be, but the thunder drew steadily near and that is when we began to hear the screaming. Men from the village were trying to fight off the intruders, but Cirrans were wine-makers not warriors. The tools of agriculture are of little defense against swords and arrows. My mother tried to stay calm; she told me and my sister Miranda to hide under the bed, that weíd be safe there. She stayed with us, and told us that no matter what, not to move from our hiding place. She said the warriors could take whatever they wanted, and as long as we were alive, weíd be okay. How very little my mother knew.
My village had been under attack for maybe ten minutes when I first smelled smoke. Hiding in my place, paralyzed with a fear I had never felt before or since, I huddled with my sister and prayed to every god on Olympus to make the horror stop. My mother prayed as well, every god and goddess on Olympus was given their due, she sang their praises and begged them with all her heart to protect her daughters and make the slaughter stop. Perhaps in a fittingly twisted way, her prayers were indeed answered. The smell of smoke got stronger and in minutes our own thatched roof was on fire. In moments our home filled with dark smoke and the crackle of fire. One of the beams from the roof fell and hit my mother.
The horror of that scream is something I will never forget, try as I might. The burning beam struck her across the back of her shoulders knocking her forward and pinning her to the ground. She cried and screamed in part from the heavy weight pinning her down, in part from the fire now spreading to her clothes burning her skin. I crawled out from my place under the bed and tried to help her. I screamed for Miranda to help me but she didnít move. She just stared at our mother, beating the ground, thrashing in pain; helpless. I grabbed the blanket off the bed and extinguished the flames and then tried to move the beam. It was still hot and I only succeeded in burning my hands. Tears of fear and frustration ran down my face as my lungs filled with black smoke. Our house creaked, the fire now moving down the walls, hungry for wood dry and parched from our hot summer. Embers rained down, burning me and my mother as small tongues of flame licked up wherever the hot embers landed. Mother cried as she was repeatedly burned and I was hard pressed to keep the small fires extinguished.
Minutes later mother seemed to calm down a bit. No longer screaming she looked around at the inferno that had been our home and made a decision. "Miranda, Callisto you must get out! Get out of the house now. Youíre not safe here."
"No!" I shouted. "Iím not leaving you. I can help you I just need to move this beam." I tried again; the skin on my hands and arms blistering at the effort.
"The warriors are outside!" Miranda screamed. "They will kill us."
The house creaked again. It might have seemed like vertigo; feeling like you are standing still yet the world moves around you. I saw the back wall of our house sway. I blinked, not believing my eyes.
"Miranda!" I screamed as the back wall fell in, toppling over onto the bed pinning Miranda beneath it.
My mother screamed anew and fought for all she was worth to get out from under the beam. I tried again, screaming in frustration that I wasnít stronger. Miranda was screaming too, the bed engulfed in flames my efforts with the blanket only succeeding to let it catch fire. I was frozen, I couldnít move as I watched my sister burn to death. I could smell the burning hair and skin as she writhed in pain and panic. After moments that took far too long, she finally lay still. My mother was sobbing uncontrollably being forced to lay there and watch the death of her eldest child. Fiery embers continued to rain down and her clothes began to burn. She looked at me. It was all there in her face; pain, anguish, determination, fear, frustration. "Callisto," she shouted at me. "You must leave now. Your sister and I are dead, you must save yourself. Go!"
"But momma, I love you," I cried. "I canít leave you."
"If you love me, you will go. I love you too honey."
Our house creaked again and against my will my feet obeyed. As soon as I was out the door I heard her scream again. Sadness, agony, desperation; it was all there in the sound of her voice. I could smell the char of burnt skin and hair and I knew my mother was on fire. Finally she was quiet. Only then, as the other walls of our house caved in could I leave.
I ran, in what direction I didnít know. I may have hoped to stumble into one of the attacking warriors who would perhaps run me through with a sword and end my suffering. But I did not. The woman sitting astride her horse stopped my running. In a split second I knew everything about this woman. I could see my life reflected in her cold blue eyes and knew that we would be forever linked. She was giving orders to the men saying that sheíd come to Cirra for wine and she sure as Tartarus wasnít leaving without it. She looked down at me, a look I will never forget. It is forever linked with the screams of my mother and sister, the smell of their burning bodies, the murder of anything I could have ever hoped to be.
"Why?" I screamed at her. It was all I could think of to say.
She smirked at me and gently kicked her horse moving away from me and away from the fire. I watched her go; long black hair spilling over a black cape. I did not know how I would do it, but someday, somehow I was going to kill that woman and leave her as empty and bereft as she had left me.
/|\^..^/|\Stevie Montgomery woke with a start and sat bolt upright in bed. Her heart was racing, which after a nightmare was not unusual, but the smell of smoke filling her senses was new. She took a few slow, deep breaths to steady herself and ran a shaking hand through her shoulder-length blond hair. Fearing the worst she looked at her alarm clock and groaned out loud when she saw that it was half past three. The acrid smell of smoke dissipated and Stevie looked around her bedroom. Everything was bathed in shades of deep blue, the little moonlight illuminating the room coming from a gap in the drawn green curtains.
Stevie concentrated on the sound of rhythmic breathing coming from the floor near her bed. Her two dogs slept soundly and the steady breathing provided a sense of comfort. If there really were a fire, she had no doubt that the dogsí keen sense of smell would pick it up long before she could. That reassurance gave her the confidence to pick up the phone and dial numbers she knew by heart.
The phone rang twice and the gruff voice at the other end gave a type of comfort that the down comforter she was wrapped in could not. "This better not be Stevie," the low voice grumbled, threaded with sleepiness.
"Hey Sarah," Stevie said. She could hear the other woman fumble for a better grip on the phone and no doubt looking at her own alarm clock. Stevie noticed that Dakota, her male Great Dane raised his head lazily at the sound of his mistressís voice. Yoko, the female continued to sleep soundly. Deciding all was in order, Dakota lowered his huge head and in moments was snoring softly.
"Jesus Stevie, itís three-thirty in the fucking morning," Sarah said, her voice a harsh whisper that spoke volumes to the blonde.
"Youíre not alone are you?" Stevie asked, a very clear image in her mindís eye of Sarahís bed and how she tended to sleep with her arms wrapped protectively around whomever she might be with.
Sarah Moorhead sighed. She did not enjoy hurting the woman on the other end of the phone. In her mind she could picture the disheveled blond hair, the soft brown eyes, the vulnerable expression; but at this point it could not be helped. She adjusted herself to better hold the phone and keep from waking the woman who slept so soundly on her shoulder. "No, Iím not alone," she whispered. "But we broke up four months ago, so itís not like you can get all that annoyed."
Stevie considered that response. Theyíd broken up most recently four months ago. Theyíd tried to break up a couple of times before that and always seemed to end up emotionally entangled once again. This time they were trying to keep the friendship and just leave out the sex that tended to muddle things. "Did she wake up when you answered the phone?" Stevie asked tentatively.
Sarah shook her head, her long black hair brushing against her shoulder. "No, sheís still asleep."
"Then there isnít any reason you canít talk to me," Stevie replied. "Itís not like I wasnít up enough nights with you when you were on shoots in Romania or wherever the hell you went."
"That was phone-sex, it was different," Sarah shot back, albeit quietly.
"There were enough nights when you just wanted someone to say ëgood-nightí to, so you owe me." Stevie was happy to hear Sarah take a deep breath and let it out slowly. She always did that when she was frustrated and ready to give in.
"Okay, okay," she said quietly. "You had a nightmare, didnít you?"
Stevie pulled the down comforter around her more tightly, settling into the warmth and putting the phone in a comfortable position by her ear. "Yes," she said. "It was the same place Iíve been dreaming about, that village not far from the sea, but this time a woman was telling me what happened..."
"You had a narrator in your dream?" Sarah asked dubiously.
Stevie shrugged, "I guess so. This little girl about seven or eight years old was at home in this village when an evil warlord and her army invaded it. Everyone was slaughtered. A fire broke out and killed this girlís mother and sister."
"Man, that is a harsh dream. Seems like the worst yet. Did you watch reruns of X-Files tonight? Or Medium? Sometimes that makes you dream weird stuff."
Stevie couldnít help but smile at that. Sarah had a way of breaking down life to its most basic components; television plots. She decided to play along. "You wonít believe this, but on Medium this week, Allison had a dream that her husband and the district attorney pooh-poohed and then it came true, then she had a spat with her husband in bed and the middle daughter had messy hair and said something funny." She heard Sarah chuckle.
"No kidding? How can they do the exact same thing every week and still have it be a rockiní show?" Sarah relaxed a little. The woman curled up at her side slept soundly and this was one of the things she enjoyed most about Stevie; the ability to talk about pretty much anything. "So do you think that the girl in the village represents you or your inner-child or some shit? Or are you the village that gets plundered?"
Stevieís eyes grew wide at the comment. "Well the invading warlord did look a lot like you," she said. "But I donít think it was you. Yeah, we broke up but I donít think I feel ëpillagedí per-se. I got the sense that the little girl was telling me things that she thought I should know."
"I canít really see myself as a warlord... hmm... maybe... on a pale horse or something..." Sarah commented absently. Stevie might have found it amusing had it not been a chronic failing of her friend to steer the conversation to her favorite subject, herself.
"This horse was reddish brown. So whoíve you got in bed?" Stevie asked, deciding that if Sarah wanted to talk about herself, sheíd give her the chance.
"One of the Production Assistants from the movie I just finished," she answered without hesitation.
Stevie shook her head in dismay. Sarah was a stuntwoman and she had met her on another movie shoot when she was hired as a consultant nearly three and a half years ago. She had been happy to have some time away from the Getty where she worked as an Egyptologist and restorations specialist. Sarah had been charming and exciting and they had dated for just over three years. Finally though, the tension became too great and deep down Stevie knew she was relieved when Sarah had finally called it quits. Strangely enough the friendship had endured in spite of Sarahís revolving door of conquests.
"Is it serious?" Stevie asked.
"It was about four hours ago," Sarah answered with a slight grin in her voice. "No, not really; just a cute girl. Look Stevie, I donít want to hurt you like this. I love you to pieces, but calling your ex-girlfriend at 3 oíclock in the morning is probably not healthy."
"You think itís healthier for me to sit and stew? Alone?"
"No, I donít think that. But maybe getting out there and meeting someone..." Sarah trailed off. She wasnít good at this sort of thing. "What are your monster dogs doing right now?"
Stevie glanced at the dog beds on the floor next to her bed. Both Great Danes slept soundly. Yoko in fact appeared to be having a dream; her black paws were twitching.
"Which is what you should be doing. If anything were wrong, theyíd let you know." Sarah let a comfortable silence form between them. She knew that Stevie was relaxing, getting in the frame of mind to drift back to sleep. "You have therapy tomorrow, right?"
Stevie groaned, "Yeah."
"Well maybe thatíll help. Tell Jane about the dream and see what she thinks."
"Yeah, yeah," Stevie said resigned, starting to feel a little sleepy. "Iíll tell her. Why donít you tell me about your recurring dream?"
Sarah smiled, "Youíve heard that one before, you donít want to hear it again."
"I really do, itíll put me to sleep."
Sarah rolled her eyes. It was one of Stevieís gifts to be cutting without even trying. "Okay Iíll tell you, but before I do, remember that I canít go running with you in the morning... you know, company and all." Stevie grunted noncommittally and Sarah hoped the younger woman would remember. She reached for a bottle of water on her nightstand and took a small sip before beginning her story.
"As you know Iíve had this dream since I was a little kid," Sarah began. "When I was younger Iíd have it every few months, and then a couple of times a year and now I have it every few years. It always starts the same; Iím at Disneyland having a great time."
"As one is wont to do at Disneyland," Stevie interjected sleepily.
"Exactly. So Iím enjoying the rides and then I come to one of the boat rides. Sometimes itís Small World, sometimes itís Storybook Land..."
"Which you donít even like."
"Right. But usually itís Pirates of the Caribbean. Iím waiting for the boat and it leaves without me. Iíve totally missed the boat, so I have to jump into the nasty Disney water and swim after the boat. Itís freezing cold and Iím trying to catch up, but the boat is always just out of reach. The people in the boat are happily enjoying their ride and ignoring the fact that Iím swimming. I feel so cold, and man on Pirates at the end when the boats get pulled up that big ass hill... that is so hard to swim up. So I haul my freezing cold, drenched wet ass out of the ride and continue with my day at the park. What really sucks is when I miss the Sky Buckets and I have to jump after them, hanging on the outside of the bucket unable to let go until the skyway arrives in Tomorrowland or Fantasyland.
"Itís a good thing they took out that ride," Stevie said sleepily.
"Tell me about it," Sarah affirmed. "I havenít had that part of the dream nearly as much now." The woman next to Sarah began to stir. "Look Stevie, think about me putting my arms around you and fall asleep okay? Yoko, Dakota and I will make sure nothing else happens until morning. Iíll drop you an email or come by your office tomorrow, is that cool?"
Stevie sighed, the horror of her dream fading away and sleep lurking happily just around the corner. "I think this is co-dependent," she murmured.
"Maybe," Sarah allowed. "But whatever. Iíll see you tomorrow. Gínight Stevie."
"Gínight Sarah," Stevie sighed, barely able to hang up the phone before sleep claimed her once more.
/|\^..^/|\Stevie Montgomery woke with a start once again when the clock hit six am. Kevin & Bean from the world famous KROQ assaulted her ears and that was just the beginning. She stared at the alarm clock absently wondering why she hadnít changed the music back to classical now that Sarah didnít sleep over anymore. Itíd been four months. She decided that she would need to address that... soon. On their feet and excited, each Great Dane barked once. It was the part of her day that Stevie looked forward to the most. "Good morning guys," she said sleepily leaning over and kissing each dog on its nose. Even in her tall antique bed, large dog heads were easily accessible. "Ready to go to the beach?" Each dog barked again as Stevie hurried out of bed and slipped into sweat pants, sweatshirt and running shoes. She grabbed the leashes and plastic bags and by ten after the hour was jogging towards the beach.
The beach made living in Santa Monica worthwhile. Certainly it made up for the horrendous parking or rather, lack thereof. While it was nice to live in an incredibly liberal, intellectual, environmentally correct city, there were elements of those same qualities, the sense that everyone seemed to carry around that they were inherently more evolved and better than everyone else, which annoyed Stevie to no end. Still, as soon as her eyes caught that never ending expanse of blue all was forgiven and she fell in love with Santa Monica all over again. Her house was ten blocks from the beach which, should a tsunami ever hit would mean she was screwed. Still, she was willing to take her chances. People got screwed living in Northridge after all and that was... Northridge. Earthquakes, tsunamis, mudslides, wildfires; nature in Southern California was the last bastion of the unconquerable.
She started at a slow jog, letting her body warm up. Her two canine companions were used to the routine. Theyíd run slow enough to keep pace with Stevie and if the beach were empty when they arrived, theyíd be allowed to run off leash. It was strictly illegal of course; pretty much everything was illegal in Santa Monica (aside from being liberal that is) and that was why the city was so clean. As sheíd hoped the beach was empty. It was late October and cold by California standards. A thick fog permeated everything making the ocean difficult to see even while standing on the sand. It didnít matter though. Stevie could hear it. The rhythmic thrum of waves crashing onto the beach and the intoxicating scent of salt water.
She ran for about an hour and called the dogs back to head home. As she jogged home she thought about her packed suitcases and the vacation she would be beginning that night. Sheíd had second thoughts about going to Salem with Sarah ever since they had most recently broken up, but the trip had been planned for almost a year and she knew Sarah didnít want to disappoint her. She also knew Sarah had done her very best to time the breakup away from birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays but the plane tickets and reservations for the trip had already been made. She considered giving the stuntwoman one more chance to change her mind that afternoon. Their flight wasnít until nine oíclock at night.
Upon returning home she fed her dogs, showered and readied herself for work. Sheíd intentionally planned a light day. No use in getting something started sheíd have to leave for more than a week. Sheíd put her speaking engagements off until after her return. She knew sheíd have to coordinate a few things with her assistant Jack, but he was very capable, if not a little on the lazy side.
She paused at her closet trying to decide what to wear, as if staring at her clothes long enough would then illuminate the correct choice. Considering her options, she looked at several suits. Shades of cream, blues, greens and reds teased her. A grey suit with slacks tempted her. A soft burgundy sweater called to her. There were no meetings so she could dress down, there were no lectures to give, she wouldnít be in the lab today and she had therapy right after work. Therapy after work. Therapy. With a sigh she reached for a short black dress. Black was the only appropriate color for therapy.
/|\^..^/|\Distracted by paperwork Stevie had completely forgotten Sarahís promise of lunch until she heard the womanís voice outside her office. Since the breakup, her assistant Jack had formed an intense dislike of the woman. Unfortunately for Jack, Sarah couldnít have cared less.
"Hey Jack-Jack is your Mistress in?" Sarah asked pleasantly, her warm voice extending beyond her closed office door.
"I donít think she wants to see you," Jack protested. "Do you have an appointment?"
"Iíve got better than an appointment. Iíve brought lunch. Why donít you just tell her Iím here and I can go in her office and eat and you can get back on the phone to one of your boyfriends..."
Stevie lunged for her phone and called Jackís extension. There was no need to make her assistant any angrier than he undoubtedly was going to be.
"Jack, send Sarah in and go have lunch on me."
"Fine," Jack replied. "But you can so do better than her."
Sarah entered the office holding a large Tupperware container with two iced lattés from Starbucks balanced on top. She deposited the container on the round mosaic table in Stevieís spacious office and pulled two forks from her back pocket. Stevie smiled at the gesture.
"You really shouldnít tease Jack about being gay. You know it drives him nuts," Stevie said, pulling a couple of napkins from her desk drawer and joining her friend at the round table.
As usual Sarah looked magnificent. Even wearing nothing more impressive than jeans, a t-shirt from the U2 concert they saw together and her leather jacket. Her hair was down, still a little wet and that told Stevie a great deal about Sarahís morning. She surmised that the guest got a late start leaving the stuntwomanís apartment and Sarah had thankfully taken the time to shower before making the drive to the Getty from the Valley. She didnít bother with any makeup and frankly didnít need it. Her skin always had a healthy glow and her vibrant blue eyes were simply impossible not to look at. Make-up would have been redundant.
Sarah shrugged. "If it quacks and answers to Donald..."
"But heís not gay. Heís just...sensitive. Not all straight men are Neanderthals. The poor guy is really trying to make headway with our delivery person. Everyone teasing him about being Metro isnít going to help."
"Iíve seen your UPS girl," Sarah replied. "Nothing is going to help him with her. Sheís one of ours." Sarah popped the top off the Tupperware bowl revealing a delicious salad inside. "Eat something. You never feed yourself, it drives me nuts."
"How do you know the UPS girl is gay?
Sarah looked a little embarrassed and popped a forkful of lettuce and avocado into her mouth before answering. She took a moment to chew and glanced around Stevieís office. The walls were a cold white and tastefully adorned with mixed media art the stuntwoman simply didnít understand. A large bookcase dominated one wall that contained probably every research volume on Egypt ever written. Stevie had a separate shelf of the books sheíd written with binders of papers from talks sheíd given. Her desk was always meticulous which made the stuntwoman grin because she knew that the same never held for her friendís bedroom. Having chewed more than was needed Sarah finally swallowed and answered. "She gave me her number about eight months ago."
"Did you call her?" Stevie asked, surprised.
"Of course I didnít call her. I was still with you eight months ago." She rummaged in the salad bowl for a cherry tomato and stabbed it with her fork. "Give me some credit. I wouldnít step out on you."
Stevie sighed, annoyed with herself that it even mattered. "I know you wouldnít. Thatís why you broke up with me." She reached in the salad bowl for a thinly shaved piece of Parmesan cheese. "Iím sorry Sarah."
Sarah sighed. Like it or not they were going to have another of those conversations. She took a sip of her triple latte and studied her companion. As usual Stevie was dressed immaculately. She was wearing a smart black dress with spiky heels. Her nails were painted a rich crimson that matched her lipstick. Her shoulder length blond hair was full, if not a bit tousled looking and her jewelry could only be described with words like ësmartí and ëappropriateí. Her watch was understated and even now she only ever wore two rings. One was platinum that sheíd received from her mother upon receiving her doctorate degree and the other was a jade pinky ring that Sarah had given her on their first anniversary.
"You donít have anything to be sorry for," Sarah said quietly.
Stevie shrugged. "Iím sorry I got in the way of us." She said.
"Itís just a different us, now," Sarah replied. "Weíre always going to be close, this is the part weíre best at anyway. Besides, itís not like you got in the way of us, or your depression or anything like that. It wasnít you or me; some people just make better friends than lovers... Okay we were great lovers but you know what I mean."
Blond and brunette looked at each other for long moments. Finally Sarah crossed one leg over the other and gently nudged one of Stevieís legs with the tip of her tennis shoe. Stevie studied blue eyes that held nothing back. They were open, unguarded and infinitely caring. She took a sip of her latté. "Usually when people break up someone runs for higher ground. They find some new distraction to avoid dealing with the person they hurt. No one likes to see the wreckage they cause. I was really hurt a while ago; I said some pretty hurtful things to you. And here you are bringing me lunch and latté. You never left." She rummaged through the salad for a nice chunk of avocado. "Iím certain this isnít normal."
"Fuck normal." Sarah asserted. "We are what we are. I put up with your shit because you put up with my shit, simple as that. I found plenty of new distractions because I wanted to, and I made time for you because I wanted that too. I didnít want to put you on a shelf until you were over everything so I dealt with your justifiable nastiness. Youíre important to me Stevie, get over it." Sarah had another bite of salad and continued, "your mother says ëhií by the way. You donít call her enough."
Stevie rolled her eyes. "I talked to her yesterday! Why on earth is she calling you?"
Sarah grinned and expertly speared a piece of jicama. "What can I say, she likes me."
"Donít remind me. She pins our breakup- all of them- squarely on me, I fear what would happen if she had to pick between the two of us." Stevie helped herself to a couple more bites of salad, impressed as always at the stuntwomanís prowess in the kitchen.
"Your mom is crazy about you. She only calls me because she worries about you and doesnít think youíll give her a straight answer when she asks how youíre doing," Sarah said. "Besides sheís still convinced weíre going to get back together... again. Until you find someone youíre totally ape-shit over, sheís going to push. The only thing that could make me more perfect for you is if I were named Rhiannon or Robin instead of Sarah. She even forgives me for having an "h" in my name."
Stevie nodded. "All the motherís out there and I got the rabid Stevie Nicks fan."
Sarah shrugged, "Just be thankful sheís not a rabid Bjork fan. Are you packed for tonight or what?"
Stevie took another long pull of her latté before speaking. Her eyes wandered around the minimally adorned walls searching for distraction, finding none. "Iíve been thinking about that. Maybe youíd have more fun if you took your new girl or something..."
Sarah put her fork down and blue eyes bore into brown. "Donít even tell me youíre thinking of backing out," she said emphatically. "I donít have some ënew girlí; I planned this trip with you and I want to go on this trip with you. Just tell me youíre ready to go?"
Smiling, Stevie took another sip of latté. Sarah could be impossibly charming when she wanted to. "Yeah, yeah. Come leave your car at my place. Iíll have a car pick us up and get us to the airport.
Five oíclock arrived sooner than expected. Stevie had enjoyed her long lunch with Sarah as she always did. They chatted about Stevieís most recent nightmare, as well as what they hoped to see in Salem during the Halloween week. Sarah wanted to do every touristy thing imaginable and insisted that they go to no more than three museums. Stevie assured her that she was approaching the trip as a vacation and promised not to drone on about art and architecture more than absolutely necessary.
Jack had left most of his annoyance at lunch and had really done his best to assure the Egyptologist that she could indeed disappear for a couple of weeks and the Getty would still be there when she returned.
"I swear," he said as he jotted down some last minute notes of other museum curators who may be calling and how to handle each one, "no one is going to know youíre gone."
"Thatís it," Stevie chuckled, "Make me feel like I donít do anything here."
He shook his head. "You donít, remember?" He ran down a checklist heíd written. "Are you going to check out any conservators back east?"
Stevie shrugged. "I donít know. I may, Boston perhaps, but weíll see what kind of mood Sarah is in. She really doesnít want this to turn into a working vacation for me."
Jack nodded. "For such a dumbass she really does care about you."
Brown eyes studied the middle-aged man with a bit of annoyance. "Itís one thing for me to call her a dumbass, Jack. You donít get to. I know you want me to find someone, and at some point I might, but in the meantime you might want to be nicer to Sarah because she isnít going anywhere."
The assistant shrugged. "I get the point. What are you doing about your behemoth dogs? Do you need me to feed them?"
"No," Stevie said as she checked her watch one final time and put some papers from her desk into her briefcase. "My mom is coming over to stay with them. She adores them, they put up with her." She hugged her assistant briefly. "Iím outta here. Iíll be home after therapy for a couple of hours before the flight. Call if you need to. Otherwise you know how to get a hold of me if itís important. Iíll see you in a couple of weeks."
"Have a good time," Jack said as she left.
Jackís parting words echoed in Stevieís mind as she drove up and down Second Street looking in vain for a parking space. He always told her to have fun before therapy, although she was fairly sure heíd been talking about vacation in this instance. Jack was kind of sick in that respect, heíd also tell someone to enjoy themselves at a funeral. After circling the block three times Stevie gave up and headed for the parking structure. It was always a fitting beginning to the therapy routine; spending fifteen minutes hunting in vain for a parking space.
Walking long distances in heels was never fun, but sheíd gotten used to it. Entering the brick building she made her way up the stairs, the smells of various herbs from the acupuncture offices mingling in the hallway. By habit, she noted Janeís name on the door and pushed it open. She sat down in the waiting room and sorted through email on her Blackberry while she waited. She smiled. There was a note from Sarah.
Donít forget to mention your
Remember that youíre not as lame
as you think you are and if Jane
annoys you ask her how many drugs
she did in the sixties.
p.s. we are so not co-dependent;
so donít even go there.
It was a routine that Stevie was happy continued even as their romantic involvement ended. Sarah would often drop Stevie a note before therapy so she could walk in with a smile on her face. She usually didnít get a chance to do it when she was working, but if she was in between projects, she was an incredibly attentive friend. Stevie considered that was why she put up with the stuntwomanís fits of self-absorption. Before she could ponder it any further, Jane opened the door to her office and welcomed her inside.
Still grinning, Stevie headed inside and sat at one end of the couch, next to the table with the ubiquitous box of Kleenex. After more than ten years of off and on therapy, Stevie was convinced that sheíd developed a Pavlovian reflex to the sound of her therapistís voice. As soon as she heard Jane say ëand how do you feel about that?í sheíd usually start to tear up. By now it was as ingrained as breathing.
"How are you?" Jane asked when sheíd settled herself.
Stevie paused for a moment to give the impression she was thoughtfully considering her answer. "Iím fine, thanks for asking."
Jane smiled. She was a good deal shorter than Stevie with short salt and pepper hair, in her mid fifties. Over the years Stevie had culled a number of details about the woman. She knew she was straight, not presently married, had a dog, was passionate enough about photography to have a darkroom in her house and was more inept at technological advances than almost anyone Stevie knew. Still, at the same time the woman remained an enigmatic mystery that was somehow comforting.
"Why do I get the feeling that isnít the whole story?" Jane asked calmly.
To say that Jane said something calmly was an understatement of epic proportions. She had an even manner of speaking and an infinitely soothing voice. In fact as she was breaking up with Sarah the first time, sheíd brought the stuntwoman to a couple of therapy sessions. Twice Sarah dozed off while listening to Jane speak. The stuntwoman was convinced that her mellowness was due to too much fun in the sixties although Stevie couldnít really picture her doing anything stronger than the occasional joint.
"Because Iím in a depression, having nightmares and about to go on vacation with the woman who broke my heart four months ago." Stevie said flatly. "I suppose I could say ësame old torture every dayí, but that sounds so depressing."
"Donít you leave tonight for Salem?" Jane asked. "How does that feel to you?"
Stevie felt the tears start to well up and told herself very sternly that there was no need to cry about this. "I gave her an out if she wanted to go with someone else, but she doesnít." She noticed Jane arch an eyebrow. "Look, Iím not interested in getting back together with her in that sense. Weíre just going to go as friends and have some fun."
"What are the sleeping arrangements?" Jane asked pointedly.
Stevie rolled her eyes. "We booked it when we were together. Thereís one bed, but that isnít an issue. It is possible for two lesbians to share a bed and not have sex. In fact in some circles itís an epidemic. The condition has itís own name and everything."
"Lesbian Bed Death, yes Iíve heard of it," Jane replied. "But youíve never characterized your relationship with Sarah as being anything but very passionate and physical."
Taking a deep breath Stevie tried to compose her thoughts. Sex was probably her least favorite topic of discussion in therapy. Well one of her least favorites at any rate. "Sarah and I still love each other very deeply. I donít know why, but we do. We have a connection. But as my depression increased, that part of our fire went out. Or it could have been the realization that we just arenít the two people who are supposed to be together. Weíre the total opposite of Brokeback Mountain. We have to talk to each other every day but leaving the naughty bits alone is no problem." Jane arched her eyebrow again. "Anymore, that is," Stevie amended absently fiddling with her jade pinky ring. "I want the whole package in a person. I want to meet the person Iím supposed to be with, but I want to be emotionally healthy enough to recognize her when I do. Sarah and I are like three quarters of a package to each other. Sarah didnít want to let that go, in spite of having to break up with me. Iíve really grown to appreciate and respect that. She is happy to have the seventy-five percent with me and running around chasing anything in a skirt for the other twenty-five percent. That isnít good enough for me. She knows that isnít good enough for me. I want someone I can have one hundred percent with. I donít want to lose Sarah, and I donít intend to, but when I find Ms. Right Iíll end up with one hundred seventy five percent, which really isnít too shabby.
"Does Sarah know this is how you feel? Have you actually had a conversation with her?"
Stevie blushed, hating it when Jane pegged her so easily. "She knows me about as well as I know myself. Some things she totally doesnít understand, like the depression. But some things I totally donít understand... like the depression. No I havenít talked to her about it, but we do our best communicating talking around things in an oblique way." Jane frowned and Stevie soldiered on. "She isnít going to throw any moves on me. Sheíll think about it, totally. But she wonít do it. For all I know sheíll find someone there. Really, I think the trip is going to be fine. Who knows, maybe Iíll meet someone back there." Stevie explained with more conviction than she felt.
"Is that something that interests you?" Jane asked. "Until now you havenít really entertained the possibility of finding someone besides Sarah."
"I donít know." Stevie answered honestly. "I donít think so. I donít see myself hooking up with anyone else until this depression thing is under control. But if I did meet someone, I know Sarah and my mother would be ecstatic." She shrugged. "Maybe itíd be just what I need."
"How has the depression been this past week?"
Stevie shrugged. "Iím experiencing life in all its agonizing glory," she said. "No cutting, no drinking to excess, no reckless behavior; just an overwhelming sense that Iím paying for something; that Iíve done something very bad at some point and Iím being punished for it."
"The cutting and drinking to excess hasnít been a problem for several years has it?" Jane asked. Stevie nodded. "But itís still a temptation?" Stevie nodded again. "Do you have any sense of what it could be youíre being punished for?"
Stevie shook her head. "I donít know. I intellectually know Iíve never killed anyone. Iíve never really hurt anyone, except that guy in the bar who grabbed me and got a spike heel through his foot. Yet I have this feeling, this self-directed rage like Iíve hurt so many people and let down my family. I wish I knew where it came from." Stevie shook her head in frustration. It seemed like the same mantra week in and week out in therapy. No one was ever going to really love her unless she loved herself. How could she love herself if all she had inside was guilt and rage at things she was certain she didnít do? "I really thought these dreams Iíve been having would shed some light on this, but so far they havenít."
"You said youíd had another?" Jane asked.
Stevie nodded. "Only this time there was a voice. A narrator who was telling me what was happening. Describing the scene as I saw it. Her mother and sister were killed in a fire as a murderous warlord sacked their village."
"So this little girl was left alone?" Jane asked.
"I guess so. I donít know, there may have been other survivors." Stevie answered not sure what Jane was getting at.
"Could the little girl be you? Youíve mentioned before that youíve often felt apart and alone. Youíve expressed a growing isolation since your break up." Jane spoke conversationally, softly as if knowing her words were going to frustrate her client.
"Thatís what doesnít make sense." Stevie fumed. "Iíve got plenty of friends who have reasons why theyíre here," she indicated the cozy office. "Theyíve got some sort of trauma in their life, childhood or otherwise. They have very real issues that they need to manage. Iíve just got this depression from nowhere. Yeah, my girlfriend broke up with me but sheís still my best friend. My mother adores me, Iíve got a career I love, not to mention the two most beautiful dogs on the planet. Jane, we have been at this on and off for over a decade. I have no reason to be depressed!"
Jane shrugged, "Youíve never met your father."
Stevie laughed. "Thatís because my mom was smashed backstage after a Fleetwood Mac concert. I think he was some roadie, but mom canít really remember. Itís not like Iím feeling that huge void."
"Weíve considered that there could be things youíre not remembering." Jane offered pleasantly.
"How would I have a photographic memory about everything else and some mysterious gap? That doesnít make sense. My problem is I remember too much. I remember everything. There is nothing in my past that would suggest the overwhelming guilt I feel. The internal rage, anger and sorrow. It just doesnít add up."
"Tell me more about the dream." Jane said trying a different approach.
Stevie took a deep breath, calming herself. "This little girl comes running out of the house and sees this female warlord sitting astride a dark reddish-brown horse. The warlord looked a lot like Sarah but I donít think it was her. In spite of the breakup, Sarah has been a dear. But this warlord looked like Sarah with the same black hair and blue eyes. She was giving orders to her men and ignored this little girl and her rage."
Jane cocked her head. "This dream seems very detailed. Do you know where and when it took place?"
Stevie blinked at that. She hadnít really tried to put the details into a regional or historical context. She closed her eyes and tried to recreate the scenes of the dream. Focusing not on the players themselves but everything around them. She studied the clothing, the construction of the house where the girlís family was killed. She noted the details; the pot of stew hanging over a cook fire, the sword held by the warlord.
"I know it wasnít far from the ocean. The village had famous vineyards. The construction of the buildings and clothing would point to something very very long ago. Iíd say weíre talking ancient times. The sword the warlord held looked like an ancient Greek short sword. Being by the ocean, I suppose it could have been Greece." Stevie almost seemed to be talking to herself as if sheíd just uncovered something that was very important.
"Certainly youíre surrounded by ancient Greek artifacts at work?" Jane asked. "Do you think that could have some bearing on your dream?"
"I suppose," Stevie allowed. "But it isnít my main specialty. I give more talks on ancient Egyptian artifacts than I do on things from the Greek or Roman period." She was thoughtful a moment. "Still, I guess it is worth considering..."
The rest of the hour passed in similar fashion. They discussed her dream and the upcoming vacation. Stevie explained how she would handle a variety of scenarios with Sarah should they arise. She felt like an idiot for doing so but wanted Jane to know that she would be able to handle not only herself bur her ex in a variety of situations.
She drove home, still pondering her dream and what it meant when she saw Sarahís car already pulled up in her driveway. The stuntwoman was more than an hour early. Stevie rolled her eyes; she really should get Sarahís set of keys back, at some point.
Stevie unlocked her front door and the house was strangely quiet. She noticed Sarahís suitcase by the door as well as backpack and leather jacket. She put down her briefcase and walked through the kitchen, noting that the dishes sheíd left out since morning were gone and the dishwasher was running. She could hear the dogs out back, with Sarah no doubt.
Sure enough the stuntwoman was tossing a large ball across the small yard for the two huge dogs to chase. Each Great Dane could cross the yard in a number of strides, get the ball and return in seconds. Dakota was better at catching than Yoko, but the female was much better at retrieving and giving the ball back. Dakota, the male was the larger of the two; Brindled in color, trim and with a very noble expression. Yoko was an inch or two shorter, nearly solid black with a white spot on one ear. She was the troublemaker and seemed to enjoy nothing more than teasing the male with the ball when she had it.
"Youíre early," Stevie said in greeting as she stepped out on her back porch. Both dogs ran over to her and she didnít have to stoop very far to plant a kiss on the top of each head, leaving a reddish pink lipstick mark. She scratched both Danes behind their large floppy ears and told them how much she missed them that day.
"Yeah, I didnít have anything else to do so I came by and took the kids for another run at the beach. I didnít think youíd mind," Sarah replied with a grin. Stevie was absolutely helpless if someone was kind to her dogs. "I poured you a glass of wine, itís on the table."
Stevie walked over to the teak table on her patio and picked up the glass of red wine. She rolled the liquid around the glass and held it to her nose. It was her favorite; a Greek Merlot from Ktima Katsaroú. "What am I going to do with you?" she asked, taking a sip. "Where on earth did you find this?"
Sarah picked up her own glass of wine and followed Stevie into the house. The two dogs followed and immediately made themselves at home on the couch. "I got it off eBay awhile back. I was saving it for the trip. I know how much you adore flying."
"Weíre not going to polish off a whole bottle of wine in an hour." Stevie replied.
"No, your mom will finish it as soon as she gets here Iíve no doubt. But I thought youíd like to have something to drink while I repack your bags," Sarah said, heading for the blonde womanís bedroom.
"Iím already packed!" Stevie protested.
With ease the stuntwoman lifted the large suitcase onto the unmade bed and flipped open the latch. Stevie stood at the doorway; arms crossed and watched the other woman with a clearly annoyed expression on her face.
"Just as I expected," Sarah said as she sorted through the contents of the suitcase. "Dressy, dressy, classy, sexy, dressy. What part of ëvacationí are you not understanding?" She demanded after holding up a series of skirts and blouses and various high heels.
"What? I wanted to look nice." Stevie said defensively. "You dress sloppy enough for the both of us."
"And this?" Sarah demanded holding up a green polo shirt.
"I can be casual," Stevie replied defensively.
"Oh no you donít," Sarah shot back tossing the polo shirt to the side. "I am not going to spend the next week playing butch to your femme." Sarah insisted. "Get a couple of pairs of jeans, your leather pants, at least one pair of sneakers and the cool boots you got on Melrose that time. You can also bring your running stuff if you want."
"Did you pack a dress?" Stevie demanded looking at her friend suspiciously. "You know it isnít fair for you to expect me to dress down all the time if you wonít dress up once in awhile."
Sarah laughed "Oh god, Jane flashbacks, someone help me!" she said dramatically as if sheíd been wounded. "Yes, I knew you were going to go there and I did in fact not only pack a dress, but I also packed a slip, appropriate shoes, and makeup."
"What the hell is this?" Sarah demanded, finding a very skimpy white baby-doll dress. "This has got to be the sluttiest-looking thing Iíve ever seen."
Stevie took a sip of wine. "Itís my Halloween costume. I thought Iíd go as Courtney Love."
Sarahís eyes widened in appreciation. "Cool."
The two women spent the next forty-five minutes arguing over Stevieís wardrobe choices. In the end, compromises were reached and while she did exchange a couple of skirt suits for jeans and sweatshirts, she also kept a nice selection of dresses and sweaters. She decided to change into her leather pants for the flight since theyíd be warm and she didnít know how cold Boston would be at their arrival. For a split second she considered changing in the bathroom and decided itíd be silly. As odd as their new relationship was, Sarah had seen her undressed enough times for Stevie not to be worried about it at this point.
The last argument was about the other items to pack. Stevie agreed to bring her PowerBook so Sarah could download the pictures from her digital camera, although her briefcase was strictly forbidden. Stevie insisted Sarah leave behind her PSP if she was forbidden to bring the scholarly journals she wanted to read on the plane. They compromised and selected a couple of movies to watch on the laptop. Sarah was allowed her iPod and Stevie was permitted her journal. All decisions finalized; the two managed to repack her bags, feed the dogs and see that all in the house was in order when the doorbell rang and the driver arrived to take them to the airport.
The ride to LAX was tolerable already being on the same side of the hill and not having to endure 405 traffic. They were let off at their terminal and Sarah grabbed the bags while Stevie tipped the driver, confirming their appointment for the return flight. They had time for a quick bite at the Mini-Chiliís restaurant and boarded the American flight to Logan airport without incident. Settling herself into the comfortable first class seat by the window, Stevie considered that she was indeed happy that she was going on this adventure with Sarah.
"Thank you for making me repack," she said quietly. "I do need to get out of my skin for awhile. Jeans and t-shirts will probably be good for me."
Sarah smiled, genuinely pleased with herself and her companion. "I know it will. Youíre away from home, work, everything about your life except me. Enjoy it. Let your inner child or whatever run amuck."
"I was also thinking its going to be worth it to see you in a dress for once." Stevie added.
"Look, just because I bought one doesnít mean Iím going to wear it." Sarah warned as she rummaged in her backpack for a headphone splitter and plugged it into her iPod. This way both women could listen to the MP3 player. "I made a mix of music you like," Sarah explained, looking a little bashful. "I thought it might help you sleep. No classical shit, or Gregorian Chants because I canít listen to that. But Aimee Mann and stuff by people more depressed than you are."
"Thank you Sarah, thatís very sweet."
Sarah shrugged. "I want you rested. We get in at three am our time. Granted itís when you usually wake up, but this time I want you rested. No bad dreams okay?"
Stevie nodded, feeling relaxed from the three glasses of wine and full from dinner. "Iíll do my best." She picked up Sarahís hand and gave it a quick squeeze before settling back in her seat and closing her eyes.
"Just remember when I am haunted that I was just so scared"It was only a matter of time before the warrior woman and her army left. There was nothing left of Cirra, nothing of value anyway, and only a handful of survivors. I learned the name of our attacker, Xena, from an old man. His name was Cadmus and he had been very kind to mother and helped repair our thatched roof two winters previously. Now I saw him lying in a broken heap, a very deep sword wound across his torso, bleeding to death. I held his hand and he told me that if I wanted to survive I would have to use my mind. He said warriors would still be around and if I wanted to grow up I would have to learn to be better than everyone else. As he died he explained that if I wanted to defeat Xena and avenge all that she had done Iíd have to be more than her. I suppose it was an innocent enough mistake for a seven or eight year old but in the years that passed I took that to mean being more heartless, more ruthless, stronger, smarter, more of everything that made her vile.
Illume ñ Stevie Nicks
Three old men, two young men, and two girls survived the sacking of Cirra. Me and a friend of my sisterís, Lysandra, were the only girls. She was fourteen and seemed very much like an adult to me. Miranda only grudgingly let me play with the two of them when mother insisted upon it. But I remember making sand towers at the beach with the two of them when we spent time there.
As night descended a fear gripped me that was beyond anything I could imagine. One of the old men, the blacksmithís father, grabbed a skin of water and started to walk out of town. The remaining four made plans to leave at first light; no one made any mention of what would happen to Lysandra or myself. Several of Xenaís men lay wounded and the two young men made sure to finish the job. They tried to gather up anything of value. They searched for dinars dropped by the dead, anything in pockets that may be of value or items that escaped the fire. They went through every ruined structure that wasnít ablaze. I didnít know what to do so I found a couple of water skins that were serviceable and I filled them from the horse trough. I gave one to Lysandra and gave the other to the old men. They accepted it as if I were invisible. You might think that after a number of hours the smell of charred flesh would lessen somewhat. It doesnít. Everything was smoke, ash, and the wreckage of buildings and lives. You could hear the flies buzzing around the corpses of villagers slain in the street. Lysandra and I huddled in what remained of a barn for the night. It was summer but the wind brought a chill that was hard to shake. The smell was terrible. Two horses lay dead; the others had been stolen by Xenaís men.
I couldnít believe Iíd actually managed to fall asleep but I was roughly woken up the next morning by large hands grabbing me.
"Here they are!" A warrior said as he and another grabbed Lysandra and me.
We were carried to the charred remains of the center of the village across the warriorís backs. I didnít think anything could smell worse than the corpses of those two horses, but they did.
"Thanks for the tip, old man!" The warrior holding me said as he tossed me to the ground.
"I told you," laughed his companion. "Give the survivors a few hours on their own and theyíll collect anything of value themselves. Saves the trouble of searching the wreckage."
As I looked around I could see about ten warriors but not Xena.
"Lets take this stuff and get back to the others." A new voice suggested.
"I have a better idea," my captor suggested. "Why donít we strike out on our own? Weíve got supplies. Weíve got a couple of girls. We take these two back to Xena and she isnít going to let us have them."
"I know a place where we can hole up, shelter the horses. We just have to stay out of Xena and Boriasí way. We avoid them weíll be fine. We can make a decent living off of the small outlying villages and the trade route from Thessaly to Alonki."
"You said all you wanted was the girls," the old man interjected. "You have them, please let the rest of us go."
The warrior who grabbed Lysandra laughed. "Youíve got to be kidding, old man," he said dismissively. He withdrew a dagger from his belt and threw it at the old man. "You think weíre going to tell you the truth?" The dagger hit the old man squarely in the throat. His eyes grew wide and he gurgled a little; some blood ran out of his mouth and he slumped over, dead.
Lysandra started to scream. Looking back, Iím surprised I didnít cry, I guess I didnít have any tears left.
"Look what you did Dorin," my captor complained. "Quiet down girl! She isnít going to be any fun now."
"Sheís fine, Minos." Dorin protested. "Look."
He walked over to Lysandra and roughly grabbed her by the arm and hauled her up to her feet. Unceremoniously he ripped her skirt off and shoved her back against the charred support beam of a ruined house. She continued to thrash and scream as he loosened the sword belt that held his pants up. "Donít fight girl or it will be worse for you. Stop screaming!"
He sounded angry and insistent. I didnít understand what was going on but did note that Lysandraís struggle became more panicked and frantic.
"Tartarus," Dorin grumbled and drew his short sword running it through Lysandraís middle. In seconds she was quiet and although slumped over, stayed pinned up against the beam by the sword. Dorin continued to move at her and in moments grunted. He stepped back and drew up his pants. "Better hurry boys," he said, "before she gets cold." In moments my captor was at her and then several more of the warriors. I noticed one of the old men silently crying as he watched the scene. Tears were streaming out of his eyes but he made no sound. I suppose half or more of the warriors had taken a turn before complaints were uttered that she was cold. That was when warrior eyes turned to me.
"Sheís just a child!" The old man protested trying to stand. I genuinely felt bad that heíd spoken up because he got his throat slit for his trouble.
"Youíre not going to scream are you little girl?" Dorin asked me as two of his men approached. He pulled his sword from Lysandraís body and she fell to the ground like a rag doll.
Mutely I shook my head. I donít know why my thirst for survival was so strong; had I to do it all over again Iíd have perished in the fire. But this was then and for some reason I could not give up on living. I suppose I stayed focused on the need to live in order to avenge the death of my mother and sister. One of the men held me down and Dorin looked at the two young men from Cirra who had survived thus far.
"Make a choice boys," he said. "You can join us or die. You have three seconds." Dorin then pointedly nodded his head in my direction.
"I donít think sheís old enough?" One of the warriors by the horses asked absently. "She looks pretty small."
Dorin laughed, a terribly seedy laugh I learned to detest. "All the better then, Pineus." He said with a smirk. "If sheís big enough, sheís old enough. If she lives, she was old enough."
It might be hard to imagine the nightmare that was my life getting any worse, but it did. Both boys wanted to live and proved themselves at my expense. I learned a very valuable skill then, the ability to separate myself from my body. To take a series of moments and by force of will cease to exist. It is indeed a terrible thing to be invisible, to exist to only service the needs of someone else, but on that day, the day after my entire world of love and safety was burned to the ground, that is what I became.
Dorin was true to his word. He relocated us to the canyon that was in the middle of nowhere. Phorcys and Plutus were accepted into the band of warriors. They were brothers, sixteen and eighteen respectively and lived out near the vineyards. They had been in the village with their parents delivering bottles of wine when Xenaís army descended. My function in the band aside from providing recreation was to cook, sew, skin whatever was caught for dinner, tend to the horses and bandage wounds. All weapons were kept from me, and I was not allowed to handle anything sharper than a needle unsupervised. When I had to skin game or gut fish I was given a moderately dull knife that was then taken away as soon as the task was finished. I was allowed to eat only after everyone else had and often I went without.
Targets and training forms were set up in camp to facilitate the training of the two new recruits. As I worked around camp I watched. I studied what they were taught, how they were instructed to move, how to hold a sword, or dagger or bow. All of these things I carefully absorbed and when it was safe I practiced. The only training I received was in how to set traps for small game that came near camp. When no one was looking I experimented with ways to modify and augment those traps. I wondered how larger traps might be used against larger game.
There were plenty of moments when all of them left camp. When there was a village to raid or a caravan to pillage I was chained to the practice target and left. The target was far too heavy to lift or move, but in time I learned to pick locks. I suppose it was to my advantage that these men werenít very bright. But I also knew that there was absolutely nowhere for me to go. They never kept any extra horses so if I were to leave itíd have to be on foot. There was nothing in any direction a child on foot could reach. So when they left Iíd unlock myself and practice everything Iíd observed. Ever the mind for details, Iíd picked up on every nuance of how these men fought. I studied how their bodies moved, why did a taller one have an advantage, what was the weakness of the stronger one might be. For every sword parry the new recruits practiced I practiced one hundred. My hands raw and bleeding from holding a discarded sword I worked at every move, every strike and every parry. I also collected things, little bits of discarded armor that they thought they ruined in a drunken stupor. A dagger here, a small sword there; a sharpening sword. I hid these treasures well and spent hours repairing them, sharpening them, creating something lethal from something discarded.
As the years wore on I honed my hatred as well. My nights were brutal and painful at the vile whim of the warriors. My days were filled with work, humiliation, hunger and emptiness. Through it all, my mind kept returning to one memory, that of a black haired woman with blue eyes who smirked at my anguish. Xena was responsible for what had happened to my family, my village and me. Every night I was torn into by some smelly violent cutthroat I thought about making Xena pay. Every rabbit I skinned I envisioned Xenaís entrails on my hands. With every imagined parry and practiced sword thrust my rage was for Xena alone. This was her fault.
It took until my fourteenth year, but my belly did eventually quicken with child. I suppose there was no way to prevent it as often as the warriorís sought release. I suppose it hadnít happened sooner because there were a number of depraved things that they demanded that I later learned did not result in pregnancy. But I was with child and there wasnít much I could do about it. I hid it as best I could but my weight gain did not go unnoticed by Dorin who felt I was getting more food than I was due. When my condition became obvious, the group met and decided to not bother killing me, but to wait until it was born and kill it then. They would try me out after and if I wasnít any good, dispose of me as well. I suppose Dorin thought he was being practical.
As the fates would have it, the baby came due when the others were out at a raid. I was scared. I didnít know what was happening to me, I didnít know what to expect, I hoped against hope that the experience would kill us both. But it didnít. I gave birth to a baby girl. I held her in my arms and looked into her bloodied face. She didnít cry. I thought about what her chances were, and what would happen when Dorin returned. I remembered his words "if it doesnít kill her, sheís old enough." That was a chance I could not take. I loved my daughter and if I had learned one thing in my fourteen years was that to love something was to ensure that you would lose it. She was the very last thing I would ever love. I killed my child quickly not wanting her to experience a moment of lifeís cruelty. I buried her body in the woods where Dorin and his warriorís would never find her.
I knew then that the time had come for me to either escape or die trying. I knew better than to take off on foot, there would be no way to outrun the twelve warriors. I put my trap setting skills to good use. Exhausted and spent as I was, I did not have the time to recover from childbirth or my loss. The only focus I had was to even the odds enough to give myself a fighting chance. The raiders came back early in the morning. That worked to my favor. It gave me time to rest and gather my strength. It also meant that the caravan that they raided had spoils that took time to enjoy. From the sound of the warriors I could tell they were drunk.
Pineus was the first to run into a trap in the area where the horses got tethered. A trip-wire triggered a crossbow Iíd repaired and a single arrow pierced him through the eye. He fell down dead. There was confusion then. Dorin thought they were under attack from Alonki soldiers. The men began to run for cover tripping more traps. In seven years Iíd never raised a hand against these men and now I was killing them one at a time. I stayed in the shadows with a very sharp dagger. Three more men fell, injured when Dorin started calling for me.
"Callisto! Where in Tartarus are you?"
Minos stumbled close to the dark shadow where Iíd been hiding; the same man that threw me over his shoulder and carried me into my own personal damnation. Without hesitation I grabbed his hair, pulled his head back and slit his throat. I grabbed his short sword as he fell and made quick work of two men who were fumbling for their weapons.
Dorin saw the moonlight glint off my sword and grabbing his own weapon charged at me. Two more men came to their senses and did the same. I was standing where I needed to be and as they neared I launched myself into the air and flipped backwards over their heads. Iíd practiced the move hundreds of times after seeing one of the warriors teach it to Plutus. The men got to a spot just past where Iíd been standing and three more arrows flew and hit their mark. Two men were impaled in the upper thigh, the third in the torso; he dropped to the ground immediately. Dorin yelled loudly and broke off the arrow shaft that was sticking out of his thigh.
I did not fight to kill, or rather did not fight to kill the healthy men. As I neared a fallen or wounded warrior I made sure to slit his throat or stab him through the heart. I parried sword thrusts and led my combatants all over the camp. Daggers flew, shards of metal, arrows; before long only six of my captors remained.
In spite of what Iíd endured that day, the battle did not wear on me. Rather the rage I had been honing for seven long years had finally found itís release and that rage was hungry. Two more men went down and a perfectly timed flip on my part ensured that one of the warriors ran another through with his sword. By flipping forward and back I was able to keep the men off balance. They didnít know how to counteract my moves. It was to become a signature of how I fought.
Finally it was down to Phorcys, Plutus and Dorin. All three men were tired. Phorcys had taken an arrow through the shoulder, Dorin through the thigh and Iíd managed to slash Plutus across his torso.
Phorcys was the first to give up. "Please Callisto," he said throwing down his sword. "No more."
Plutus wanted to follow his lead. "Callisto, weíre from Cirra too. Donít kill us."
I continued to parry strikes from Dorin, making sure to give him a number of non-fatal cuts. As he lost blood, the strength and fight sapped from him.
"Given how much the two of you were concerned about my welfare all these years," I said giving them my partial attention, "and given that we are from Cirra, Iíll make the two of you a deal. Which ever brother kills the other gets to live." They protested, of course, but I did notice how each man strengthened the grip on his sword hilt. In moments, the two brothers were battling each other.
That gave me the opportunity to concentrate on Dorin. He was worn out and his face showed it, but he was also fighting for his life and he clearly knew that too. Strike after strike I wore him down; flipping behind him I sliced the back of his legs, cutting the tendons that enabled him to stand. He sank to his knees. I broke his collarbones next so he couldnít lift his hands. He knelt there looking at me and began to weep. "Donít kill me," he said, "I let you live."
"You call this living?" I demanded as I doused him with oil. "Let me enlighten you as to how I really feel day in and day out." With that I tossed a stick from the fire at him. He tried to dodge out of the way but only succeeded in letting the stick catch his arm instead of his torso. I suppose it was better that way. The fire spread quickly from one side of his body to the other. His screams distracted Phorcys and Plutus from their fight as they watched with me the man who had further ruined our lives shriek in agony as he burned to death.
Phorcys was the first to notice the distraction. With Plutus still staring open mouthed at what I did to Dorin, his brother took a step and stabbed him in the back. Plutus fell down face first and was still. Phorcys looked at me hopefully. That look of hope faded when I threw a dagger that hit home in his throat. "Donít tell me youíve forgotten the first lesson these warriors taught us?" I asked as I stepped over his inert body.
It took only a few minutes for me to gather the ropes for the twelve horses. I selected the healthiest looking one for myself and leading the others I rode out of that canyon never to return.
/|\^..^/|\Elizabeth Covington coasted her bicycle to a stop next to a grand seventeenth century house. Leaning the bike against the side of the house, she gathered the large bundle of cut flowers from the basket and let herself in the back door.
"Delivery girl!" she called as she made her way into the kitchen of the stately home. "Where are you Mel?"
"Right here Lizzy," a young man called from the hallway. He hobbled on crutches, a cast covering from his right foot to just below the knee, and made his way to the kitchen. He wore soft grey sweat pants and a deep blue t-shirt from the Salem Beer Works. "You are a life saver," he said leaning down to softly kiss the woman on the cheek. He tousled her short blonde hair for good measure and wrapped her in a strong hug. She was dressed in jeans and a soft grey v-neck sweater, green eyes shining happily up at him. "I totally forgot about the roses and my last guests will be arriving any minute. Could you be a dear and put them in some water? Theyíre staying in The Witches Grotto."
"You mean the attic." Lizzy said amused. "Iíll grant you one thing Mel, youíve got this guesthouse business down to an art. Give a room a funky name and charge double."
"This is Salem at Halloween, tourists expect witchy things. And youíve got to admit, I did a hell of a job fixing up the attic. I think itís the nicest room in the place. Small, but nice."
Lizzy smiled at her cousin and poured herself a cup of coffee to sip while she arranged the long stemmed red roses in a vase. She carried the vase upstairs and put it on the dresser. She tried turning it one way and another to get the most impressive angle. She had to admit Melvin had done an amazing job decorating the room. The roof was slanted dramatically making the room feel a bit like a dollsí house. She and Melvin had spent many afternoons at local auctions and it was nice to see those antiques being put to good use. All the furniture was beautifully restored and elegant. The pillows and bed coverings were in rich shades of black, deep blues and rich violets. The indigo lace curtains and other details gave the impression that one could indeed be staying in a very ëhauntedí sort of room, but very upscale.
She made her way downstairs and joined her cousin at the island in the center of the large kitchen. He was an attractive man in his early thirties with the same blond hair although somewhat shorter haircut. His eyes were green and his physically fit appearance made it no surprise that heíd broken his leg in a mountain biking accident. "Iím impressed that you sold out your first season." Lizzy said as she pulled up a stool next to him and sipped her coffee. "Thatís what, eight boarders?"
"Yeah, the attic, two in each of the bedrooms on the second floor, and another two in the guest bedroom down here. Iím sure mom and dad would be proud Iím using my inheritance wisely." He said with a wink. "Everyone else has checked in," he nodded towards the rooms on the first and second floors. "All Iím waiting for are the hotties for the attic."
"Hotties?" Lizzy asked dubiously. "They have attractive names?"
Mel shook his head. "Hell no, I ëgoogledí everyone whoís staying. I donít need psychotics or anything. "Theyíre your people Iím sure." He added with another wink. "Sarah Moorhead is a stuntwoman. Sheís doubled for Catherine Zeta-Jones among others. Her webpage says she specializes in fighting, high falls and vehicle stunts. She also did some work in the Charlieís Angels movies and The Matrix. The other one, Stevie Montgomery is sort of in your field. She is a curator at the Getty in California; an Egyptologist or something. There were links to a ton of papers sheís written. Sheís the one who made the arrangements about nine months ago and she also was the one who requested the two-dozen red roses. He opened up his laptop and typed a few words into his search engine.
"Wow, she is good looking," Lizzy said appreciatively looking at the screen. Mel had pulled up a page reviewing a panel discussion on archival restoration techniques.
"Check out the brunette," Mel said, typing the other name. "I know you dig dark hair."
"Oh my god, she looks like grandma Mel!" Lizzy exclaimed, surprised.
"Youíve got to be joking," Mel protested. "Grandma Mel was old and had grey hair. This woman is young, and hot."
"You arenít surrounded by their pictures every day," Lizzy disagreed. "Iíve seen plenty of pictures of our grandmothers when they were younger and Iím telling you this woman looks like Melinda. Besides, Iím attracted to brunettes with green eyes."
Her cousin shrugged, giving up the battle. "Okay, she isnít Jennifer Connelly but if you canít appreciate a perfectly sexy brunette when one is staring at you on a computer screen, then I canít help you. Iím sure itís moot anyway since the two of them are together." He looked thoughtful for a moment, taking the time to eye his cousin up and down. "Why donít you be nice to them when they get here," he suggested. "Maybe theyíll take you out clubbing or something, show you the ropes with meeting women. You spend too much time on digs or in the lab."
Lizzy stared at her cousin and her cheeks began to redden slightly. "Melvin Pappas Cabot, I am only going to ignore that comment because youíre my favorite cousin."
He shifted a little uncomfortably in his seat. "I donít mean to pry Lizzy, but I love you and want you to be happy. Youíre pushing thirty, I just think you should find out if youíre really gay or not. Besides," he added, "Iím your only cousin."
Lizzy rolled her eyes. "Have you had sex with a man?" she asked, putting down her coffee cup.
"No, but I have had sex with women and I know thatís what I like." He explained.
"Well I have had sex with men and I know that isnít what I like. It doesnít matter if Iím thirty-two or seventy-two. So shut the hell up already. Iíll meet someone when I meet someone. Besides," she muttered, "there were those drunken trysts in college. Iíve kissed a few girls, I know thatís where itís at."
He rolled his eyes but didnít press the issue. "I just wish youíd hurry up and meet someone." He said quietly.
Their argument was cut short by a car pulling up outside the front door. Through the front window the cousins could see that it was two women, a blond and a brunette.
"Look Lizzy, just hang around and try to meet them, thatís all Iím asking. Or at least get the door... my leg and all." He made a show of trying to fumble with his crutches.
"Youíre an ass and youíre impossible," Lizzy fumed but headed to the front door all the same.
Lizzy opened the door and was surprised to see the brunette woman, Sarah she reminded herself, helping Stevie out of the car. The blonde woman didnít look very well. Lizzy could see that sheíd been crying and she looked very pale.
"Are we at the right place?" Sarah asked looking at the petite woman in the doorway.
"Yes," Lizzy said, holding the door so they could enter. "Iím Lizzy and thatís Mel in the kitchen. Can I help you with your bags?"
Sarah shook her head. "Thanks, but the airline put the bags on the wrong plane, Iíve got to go back for them. Stevie had a rough flight. Weíd just like to get some sleep. Itís about four am our time."
"Of course," Lizzy said, feeling very bad for the blonde woman. "Right this way. Here let me help you." Moving to the other side of blonde woman, Lizzy held out her hand for support. "Hi," she said. "Iím Lizzy, can I help you to your room?"
"Stevie," Stevie whispered. "Thatís very kind of you. I just need some sleep. I had a terrible flight."
Step by step the two women helped Stevie up the stairs to the attic room. Once inside the door Sarah picked up the blonde woman easily and set her gently down on the bed.
"Tylenol PM?" Stevie asked quietly.
"Right," Sarah replied. "My backpack is in the car. Iíll run down and get it." In seconds she was out the door and Lizzy could hear that she was taking the steps two at a time.
Lizzy picked up a pitcher of fresh water that was in the dry sink by the bed and poured water into a clean glass. She handed it to Stevie. "Turbulence?" she asked.
Stevie shook her head, sitting up a little to take a sip of water. "No," she answered. "Nightmares."
Before she could say anything else, Sarah had returned and was fishing in the backpack for the Tylenol. Lizzy took that as her cue to leave and shut the door silently behind her.
"What was that about?" Mel asked when she returned to the kitchen.
Lizzy shook her head. "I donít know. She had some nightmares on the plane or something."
"No, silly," Mel chuckled. "I mean your rushing to help the hot blonde up the stairs. ëMay I help you to your roomí. Maybe youíre attracted to blonds after all?" He asked.
"Melvin, donít be an ass," Lizzy shot back as she heard someone coming down the stairs.
"Iím sorry about the dramatic entrance," Sarah said entering the kitchen. "Stevie had a really bad nightmare on the plane and that and the jet lag isnít helping."
"Itís totally okay," Lizzy said reassuringly.
"Seriously, itís no problem." Mel concurred. "Is there anything we can do?"
"Actually there is," Sarah replied, looking at Lizzy. "Iím going to get a couple of hours of sleep myself, but then Iíll have to head back to the airport to get our stuff. They said theyíd drop it off but they wonít get it here until tomorrow and we were hoping to start enjoying our vacation then. Iím sure sheíll be fine, but if youíd maybe keep an eye out for her while Iím gone Iíd appreciate it."
"Sure," Lizzy said and Sarah headed back up the stairs.
Back in the attic, Sarah kicked off her shoes and crawled under the covers with Stevie who was still looking pale. "Stevie," Sarah whispered soothingly. "Iím going to sleep for a couple of hours and then go get our bags. That nice lady and her husband said theyíd keep an eye on you if you woke up. I wonít be gone long." Stevie said something non-committal and Sarah wrapped her arms around the smaller woman. She kissed her hair and told her to sleep well, that sheíd keep the dreams away.
Downstairs Melvin Cabot looked at his cousin suspiciously. "So now youíre looking after my boarders?" He asked.
"Well you technically did ask me to help out until you got your cast off." She reminded him. "As I recall, you said it would give me something to do for the next three months before I go back to the dig."
"Oh, I guess I did."
"Pass me your laptop," Lizzy said and Mel shoved his PowerBook across the counter. Lizzy picked up the computer and headed to the sitting room.
"What are you doing?" her cousin asked.
"Well I guess Iíve got a few hours to kill so Iím going to ëgoogleí Ms. Montgomery and see what sort of archaeology sheís into. I guess Iím not going into the lab today."
True to her word, Sarah descended the stairs a couple of hours later. Lizzy looked up surprised at how quickly the time had flown. Mel had been quietly working, restoring an antique clock and she had read three of Stevieís papers on subjects ranging from conservation techniques, an unusual find in Egypt and ancient Greek winemaking. She was indeed an unusual woman, sheíd been guest lecturer at a number of prestigious colleges, been a consulted expert in the field of conservation, and served as an expert witness in criminal trials ranging from forgery to importation of looted artifacts. At present she worked for the Getty museum as well as continuing her speaking engagements and scholarly publishing.
"Iím going to head back to the airport." She announced. "Iím hoping Stevie will sleep a little longer, but I donít know."
"Do you want some coffee or anything before you head out?" Mel asked.
"Iíd love a diet coke if youíve got one." Sarah answered.
"Coming right up," Lizzy answered. She grabbed a can from the ëfridge and handed it to the stuntwoman. "Would your friend like tea or anything?"
"Yeah, tea would be great." Sarah fished a piece of scrap paper out of her backpack. "Here is my cell number if you need to get in touch with me before I get back. Like I said, Iím sure sheíll be fine." She shrugged. "But I still worry. Thanks again," she said heading for the front door.
"Donít worry about a thing," Mel assured her. "Weíll take good care of her." As he spoke, he couldnít help but glance at his cousin.
Without saying a word to her cousin Lizzy put a kettle of water on the stove to boil. She opened and closed a few cupboards. "You do have tea, right?"
Mel shook his head. "It was on the grocery list of stuff I was going to have you pick up today." He nodded in the direction of the note pad sitting on the counter.
Lizzy shook her head and walked towards the back door. "I donít have time to do your grocery shopping. Iíll go home and get some tea and pick up the other stuff tonight."
"Of course, youíre a lesbian, by law you have to have twenty-seven different kinds of tea at home!" Mel called as Lizzy peddled her bike in the direction of home.
When she was out of sight, Mel sat back at the kitchen island and looked pointedly up in the direction of his attic. "She should know better than to fall for a married woman," he whispered.
Lizzy returned twenty minutes later, the basket of her bicycle full of various tea boxes. She gathered them up in her arms and Mel held the back door open. "Iíve kept the water hot," Mel announced and I heard the toilet flush a couple of minutes ago. Sheís awake.
Setting the various tea boxes out on the counter, Lizzy tried to pick one. Should she go for black tea? Something decaffeinated? Green tea, red tea, or white tea? Something exotic and sophisticated? Mel watched his cousin and shook his head amused. "Liz honey, what tea would you want me to bring you if you had a nightmare?" he asked softly.
Lizzy reached for the Moroccan mint variety as Mel got a teacup and saucer down from a shelf his shorter cousin had no hope of reaching. She steeped the loose gunpowder tea in the teapot and then strained it into the teacup. She added some honey, more than was probably necessary, but she was accustomed to her own sweet tooth. Quietly she ascended the stairs and knocked softly at the attic door.
"Yes?" Stevie answered quietly. "Come in,"
Lizzy pushed the door open and noticed that the blond woman had washed her face. Her makeup was gone and while her eyes were still red, she still looked very beautiful to the archaeologist. There was something about her though, something that touched a very deep conflict. Almost as if she was attracted but didnít want to be; the reverse of the feeling sheíd had in the company of this womanís friend. Like she should be attracted to the stuntwoman, but had the odd sensation that itíd be like an attraction to her grandmother and that just seemed wrong to her.
"I brought you some tea," Lizzy said quietly. "Itís mint, I thought it might make you feel better."
Stevie smiled and gratefully accepted the steaming cup. "Thank you," she said. "Iím sorry to be such a pain, and we only just got here."
"Itís no problem," Lizzy assured her. "Believe me, nightmares are very common in my family, almost a tradition."
Stevie nodded at the edge of the bed "How do you mean?" she asked.
Lizzy took the head nod to be an invitation to sit, so she did. "My grandmothers were both very vivid dreamers. At times they were like nightmares, at other times they were really pleasant dreams. They both wrote about them. They often interacted with people in their dreams, had conversations and such. Does that happen to you?"
Stevie shook her head. "No, thank god." She said. "This woman Iím dreaming about isnít very nice. I donít think Iíd like to talk to her." Lizzy noticed the color start to drain from the womanís face. "Sheís a killer." She shook herself as if trying to push the memory back. "You said both of your grandmotherís had lucid dreams. Thatís pretty unusual, to get that from the maternal and paternal side of your family? Does it happen to you?"
"Actually both of the grandmotherís Iím talking about are on my fatherís side of the family. I donít know much about my motherís side. Itís complicated, but one of my grandmothers was an archaeologist and the other was..."
"What did you say your name was?" Stevie asked, interested.
Lizzy smiled. Sheíd been hoping that this woman would be familiar with her grandmotherís work. "Itís Lizzy Covington, Elizabeth Janice Covington actually."
Stevie smiled, a very warm inviting smile. "Iím talking to the granddaughter of Janice Elizabeth Covington. How nice. Iíve read a great deal about the Covington Marbles in the Athens museum."
"Thatís her. A lot of her larger finds, the statuary and stuff like that was kept in Athens, other artifacts that were smaller and more esoteric were brought here. Iíve got some space at the Peabody museum where I do research, trying to document the stuff that my grandmother found and the stuff that my great-grandfather found. His reputation was more... dubious and most of his finds Iím sending back to Greece."
Stevie nodded in understanding. She had actually used ëHarry The Graverobberí as an example at a recent trial and was now sorry she did. At the time sheíd never expected to meet one of his descendents. "So your other grandmother who had the dreams was..." Stevie tried to visualize a page from one of the articles sheíd read by the archaeologist. "Melinda Pappas."
Lizzy nodded. "Yeah, my cousin downstairs is named after her, or her father really. Melvin Pappas Cabot."
"Youíre not married?" Stevie asked surprised.
"To my cousin?" Lizzy replied, equally surprised and a little horrified.
Stevie shrugged, "Sarah said something about..."
Lizzy looked a little offended. "I think your girlfriend had it wrong, Iíd never marry my cousin. Ewww."
"My girlfriend?" Stevie asked arching an eyebrow.
It was Lizzyís turn to shrug, although her cheeks were turning bright pink. "Mel said..."
"Sarah and I are just friends."
"Oh." Lizzy said. "When she picked you up I guess I figured..."
"Okay, weíre ex-girlfriends. But weíre still friends." Stevie explained, not sure why she bothered. "Iím single," she added quietly.
"Me too." Lizzy said.
An awkward silence descended in the room. Stevie quietly sipped her tea and Lizzy was certain sheíd die of embarrassment. As if by psychic plea, she heard the phone ring and her cousin called up the stairs saying it was for her. "Enjoy your tea. Ah... the bathroom is across the hall and youíve got towels under the dry sink. If you need anything let me or Mel know," she said leaving and closing the door quietly behind her.
Stevie stared long minutes at the door intrigued at the exchange sheíd just had with the young archaeologist.
"Kill me now," Lizzy sighed taking a seat once more at the counter after hanging up the phone. She thought it obvious that she wasnít going into the lab at this hour, but it was nice for the staff to follow up about it anyway.
"What happened?" Mel asked, genuine concern threading his voice.
"I just made a fool of myself." The archaeologist said shaking her head sadly. She told her cousin about the exchange upstairs, her cheeks flushing red at the memory.
"She thought we were married?" He said when sheíd finished. "Thatís... disturbing."
Lizzy rolled her eyes. "She obviously didnít know we were cousins, and that isnít as embarrassing as the rest."
Mel grinned and reached over with a strong hand to mess up his cousinís hair. "I wouldnít worry about it cuz," he said. "I think you were both equally embarrassed. Look, do me a favor, go get the groceries and come back. Everything is going to be fine," he said tossing his cousin the car keys.
The grocery store wasnít far although trying to find parking in the tourist packed town was more of a challenge. Lizzy returned to her cousinís house and had begun to unload the groceries when Sarah drove up in the rental car and parked behind the archaeologist.
"Give you a hand?" Sarah asked.
"Sure," Lizzy replied, handing her a couple of grocery bags. "Get your luggage?"
The stuntwoman nodded smiling down warmly. There was something about the small blond woman that she found disarming. "Yeah," she said. "Did Stevie wake up?"
Lizzy used every bit of self-control she possessed to keep her cheeks from flushing. "Yes, I took her a cup of tea. She seemed a little tired, but okay."
"Iím glad to hear it," she said then added, "you guys have a gorgeous home."
Lizzy couldnít help but smirk. "Actually it just belongs to my cousin. Iím helping him out until he gets the cast off his leg."
"Oh," Sarah said thoughtfully following Lizzyís lead and setting the grocery bags down on the counter. "Any more groceries?" She asked to which Lizzy shook her head. "Iíll get our bags then."
"Iíll help you" Lizzie said.
"Thatíd be great thanks."
The two were able to make it in one trip and moments later the three women were standing in the attic. Lizzy felt out of place and was ready to head back down the stairs when Stevieís voice stopped her.
"We were thinking of taking one of the walking tours tonight. Do you have any suggestions?" she asked.
Lizzy nodded. "The haunted tour is pretty fun. Somebody in Goth getup takes you around to look at a bunch of houses. Pretty much all of the narration will begin with the words ëa wealthy sea merchant bought this when...í they have some fun ghost stories though."
"Sounds cool," Sarah said, looking hopefully at Stevie.
"This time of year all of the walking tours are going to have some sort of haunted theme. Is there a particular part of town youíre interested in seeing?" Lizzy asked.
"Iím not sure," Stevie said. "Iíve been to Boston, but this is my first time in Salem." She glanced at Sarah. "Why donít we get cleaned up and head downstairs and see what tours weíve got to choose from. Does your cousin have brochures or anything?"
"Oh yeah," Lizzy confirmed not at all certain if her cousin had picked up extra copies of the Haunted Happenings newsletter or not. "When you guys are ready to go, come downstairs and weíll hook you up with some suggestions."
"That sounds great," Stevie replied. "Iíll feel good as new after a shower Iím sure."
Lizzy felt her cheeks start to redden again and quickly headed for the stairs.
"Did you know they werenít married?" Sarah asked when the archaeologist left.
Stevie nodded. "We had an... odd... conversation when she brought up the tea. She pegged us as girlfriends..."
"You set her straight, right?" Sarah asked looking at the door.
"You are not picking up new women when youíre on vacation with me. Youíre simply not." Stevie warned. "That would be beyond tacky."
Sarah thought about it and shrugged. "Youíre right. How are you feeling by the way?"
Stevie nodded. "Iím much better. The tea really helped, as did getting some normal sleep. Iím sorry I fell apart on the plane, the dream was just so horrible."
The stuntwoman joined her companion on the bed. "Itís totally okay. Youíve said that these dreams donít repeat, so maybe youíre through the worst of it. Maybe there is an end point where youíve learned what youíre supposed to learn and it stops."
"I hope so. And more than anything I hope that time is soon." Stevie said, resting her head against her friendís shoulder. "Do you mind if I take the first shower. I really need to wash myself off."
"Sure," Sarah replied. Iíll unpack our stuff. "The roses are beautiful, by the way, thank you."
Stevieís eyes darted over to the dresser. "Oh my god. I totally forgot about that." She looked a little embarrassed. "I guess I should have cancelled them."
Sarah shrugged. "It would have saved you a few bucks, but Iím glad you didnít. You know I love the smell of red roses." She reached for Stevieís hand but the blond stood and headed to the dry sink for a bath towel. "Donít even kiss my hand," she warned. "Itís not fair."
Sadly, Sarah sighed. "Iím sorry, old habits are hard to break."
/|\^..^/|\Lizzy headed down the stairs and found her cousin putting the groceries away. "Did you pick up some copies of the Haunted Happenings newspaper?" she asked.
"Yeah," Mel replied "Theyíre in the desk in the sitting room. "You going into town tonight?"
"The girls want to take a walking tour, I was going to highlight some of the good ones."
"Youíve got to be kidding me," Mel exclaimed, surprised. "Youíd send them on a tourist tour? Why donít you just show them around town?"
"But I..." Lizzy began.
"You know about the houses in the area?" Sarah asked as she walked into the kitchen. She was carrying the empty teacup and saucer that Lizzy had brought upstairs.
"She knows a hell of a lot more about the houses around here than the tour guides that take the tourists around." Mel said proudly beaming at his cousin.
"Look I..." the archaeologist stammered.
"Weíll buy you dinner." Sarah offered with a huge grin. "You donít even have to put on a Goth outfit," she added.
Mel watched the exchange with interest, remembering that both women were single.
Lizzy shrugged. "I guess I could go home and get a jacket..."
"Donít be silly," Mel said. "Iíve got one you can borrow."
Both women looked at him dubiously.
"I love you to pieces Mel," Lizzy said with a chuckle. "But three of me can fit in your jackets."
"Stevie has an extra jacket," Sarah cut in "Sheís not that much taller than you. Itíll save you a trip at any rate. Give me about a half hour to shower and get ready, pick where youíd like dinner. Iíll tell Stevie, this will be great!" Before Lizzy could say anything else the statuesque stuntwoman darted back upstairs.
"Can you divorce a cousin?" Lizzy asked when sheíd departed, looking pointedly at Mel.
"What," he asked innocently. "Hang out with some of your people for chrissakes, it wonít kill you."
"I donít want you throwing me at them," Lizzy said, clearly annoyed.
"If you ask me, the brunette is doing the throwing, and itís in your direction," he replied. "Damn, I wish I was you."
"I donít know," Lizzy said almost to herself, "there is something about her that I find attractive and a little repelling at the same time. I donít know what it is."
"Youíre certifiable then," Mel replied. "Put the stuff about grandma Mel out of your mind.
/|\^..^/|\True to her word both women descended the stairs a half hour later. The brunette was wearing leather pants, boots and a black sweater and the blond was wearing jeans, sneakers and a hooded sweatshirt under a denim jacket. She was also carrying a leather jacket draped over one arm. Before they reached the kitchen the front door opened and four people entered; two men and two women. They carried shopping bags and talked amiably among themselves. Seeing the newcomers in the kitchen the women rushed over enthusiastically.
"Look Bob," the first woman said. "Itís the women staying in the darling attic. We couldnít help but take a peek at your room before you got here."
Inwardly Sarah was horrified, although she did her best to smile. The four people now gathering around them in the kitchen were exactly the type of people she did not expect to see on a Halloween trip to Salem. Everything about them screamed tourist. The kind of tourists that Europeans made fun of, the kind of tourists that Californians made fun of. They were older, in their late forties at least, and each couple wore matching Polo shirts with some little animal embroidered over the right breast. One couple wore blue Polo shirts and the other wore yellow. The women with matching perms wore visors and bright earrings. One woman in white Capri pants with her yellow Polo shirt and the other in khaki pants with the blue. Of the men, one was balding and overweight and had decided to wear tan cargo shorts with black socks, Birkenstock sandals and a blue Polo. The other man had salt and pepper hair and wore jeans with his yellow polo and sneakers.
"Let me make the introductions," Mel said, amused at the nervous glances Sarah and Stevie were exchanging. He nodded to the couple in the blue polo shirts, "Mary and Bob Henderson," next to the couple in the yellow polo shirts "Susan and Doug Evans, this is Sarah Moorhead and Stevie Montgomery."
"Stevie, is that short for Stephanie?" Mary Henderson asked.
Stevie shook her head. "No," she replied.
"She was named after Stevie Nicks," Sarah said proudly with a grin. "Although that Stevie is short for Stephanie, but what can you do?"
Both couples looked taken aback. "Sheís that witch singer," Bob said.
"Exactamundo," Sarah concurred with a grin enjoying the apprehension of the newcomers.
"I thought that was Lindsey," Susan asked.
"Lindsey is a man," Stevie explained flatly. "But I see how the back of the Rumors album could be confusing. Theyíre standing next to each other."
"Well itís good that you girls are here then," Mary went on. "This will be of interest to you." She turned her attention to Mel. "The four of us signed up for your special séance the night before Halloween. We were talking at lunch today and are wondering if we can have a prayer service first."
Stevie looked pointedly at Sarah and then at the door. Sarah smiled and ignored the hint. "Why would you want to do that?í the stuntwoman asked, genuinely interested.
"We want to protect ourselves from evil spirits of course," Bob explained a tad condescendingly.
"How about not attend a séance then?" Lizzy asked under her breath. Stevie grinned in amusement but didnít think the others heard the comment.
"Weíre in Salem with our church group," Mary further explained. "And are trying to combat the evil influences of this holiday by bringing God to this event." Stevie again looked at Sarah then pointedly at the door. "If you were named after a witch you may want to join us. Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your own personal savior?"
"Ah... no." Stevie said curtly. "And just for the record, while it wouldnít bother me if I was named after a witch, I donít think she is."
"Jesus saves, everyone else roll for damage," Sarah muttered quietly, making Lizzy chuckle.
"Iím not sure what your concern is? Lizzy asked, curiously. "All Hallows Eve and All Saints Day are both very Christian Holidays. Theyíve been on the books since the mid 800s"
"Itís rife with evil Pagan custom," Bob Henderson said flatly.
Stevie shrugged. "So is Christmas, but that doesnít bother many Christians." The Hendersons gasped in horror. "Ever read about a Christmas tree in the bible?" The archaeologist asked sweetly.
"Jesus is coming so look busy," Sarah added for good measure under her breath, enjoying the faces the blonde woman made as she tried not to laugh.
"Isnít Halloween a modernization of Samhain, a Pegan festival?" Susan asked quisically.
Lizzy shrugged. "Modern Halloween is a mix of a lot of things. Some people try to put it back to ancient druid customs, but frankly weíre not so sure exactly what they did or how they celebrated," she said with a nod to her cousin. "Mel and I can tell you as life long residents of Salem that many modern witches claim to be descendents of people who held these rites, but really itís just good marketing for their shops. Modern Wicca got going in the 1950s. Who wants to be the new religioin on the block?"
"Scientology," Sarah muttered. "At one point even Christianity was the new cult on the block. I guess itís each new religionís prerogative to take the trappings of the old one and make them evil."
"Speaking to the dead isnít something that should be taken lightly," Doug said simply. "If that really happens at a séance that is."
Mel chuckled. "Youíd be surprised how chatty the dead can be when theyíre properly motivated," he said.
Stevie rolled her eyes annoyed that her friend didnít take the hint and get them out of here before this conversation got rolling. "Iím curious though," she asked, deciding to have her say and get things moving along to dinner. "Itís my understanding of Christian beliefs, that when you die, provided youíre Christian of course, you go to Heaven. Who is it you think youíre going to be talking to at a séance, prayer service or no?"
"Thatís a good question," Doug said, concern threading his voice and Sarah decided he was the sanest of the group.
"Unless youíre talking to people in Heaven," Sarah offered.
"I thought it was sort of out of earthís calling service?" Lizzy asked, hoping that the church group would decide to skip the séance. The medium was a friend of hers and the last thing she wanted to do was subject her to this foursome of people.
Mary looked at Stevie suspiciously, "Maybe weíd better pray on this for guidance." The others nodded and followed the Polo-clad woman up the stairs.
Lizzy waited until she heard the bedroom doors close before turning hotly on her cousin. "I thought you ëgoogledí your boarders?!"
"You ëgoogledí us?" Stevie asked, surprised.
"Nothing said warning religious nut-case," Mel explained quietly. "I wanted to make sure you guys werenít criminals or something. This is my first season doing this."
Sarah shrugged, "Iíd have done the same thing." She looked over at Stevie with an evil grin. "Itís too bad weíre not still together or we could have really loud sex right over them."
"Sarah, donít be an ass," Stevie warned.
"That would be so cool," Mel agreed absently.
"Mel, donít you be an ass either." Lizzy added.
"Please forgive my cousin," Lizzy explained over dinner. "Sometimes he's such a..." she thought for a moment, "guy."
Stevie shrugged taking a sip of her Boston Red. "No worries, so is Sarah."
"Hey!" Sarah said in protest, then flagged the server down for another beer. "Iíll try the Muddy River Porter this time," she said, "ladies?" Both Stevie and Lizzy shook their heads.
"I really hope that they change their mind about the séance." Lizzy continued, taking a sip of her own Allston Mild. "The medium is a friend of mine and while Iím sure she could handle it why should she have to?"
Sarah tore off another rib from the rack of babybacks she was enjoying, "what difference does it make, the whole thing is fake isnít it."
Lizzy shook her head emphatically. "Not at all. Sure, some of them are of course, but a lot of psychics live in and around Salem or they come in for the Halloween season. The Hawthorne Hotel has a big psychic fair every year. Itís worth checking out. Anyway, there are a lot of things that canít be explained, and that doesnít make them fake. Not that the houses weíre going to see tonight are actually haunted, but I know for a fact some houses in Salem are."
Stevie cut her seared salmon with a fork and chewed thoughtfully as she listened to the young archaeologist. "I got the impression from reading a couple of articles about your grandmother that she was a firm believer in reincarnation."
Lizzy took another sip of beer and nodded. "Both she and grandma Mel were. It sounds kind of strange to say it, but my grandmothers both believed they were the reincarnated souls of the two women that they spent most of their lives studying. Grandma Janice believed that our souls were like threads. With each new life strands were added and others frayed away but the essential truth of that life was maintained from generation to generation. Like someone in the future may be the reincarnation of her, but would be the reincarnation of the Bard Gabrielle as well. She believed that she was a reincarnation of Gabrielle, as am I. That is the part that always baffled me, how can two people who are alive at the same time be the same soul. But that is where her rope theory came into play."
"Can I ask you a personal question?" Sarah said, realizing that the phrasing sounded lame to her own ears. "I take it your grandmothers were lesbians, how did your parents get here? Itís not like sperm banks were the big thing back then."
"Sarah!" Stevie said shocked.
"Itís okay." Lizzy answered unfazed. "I honestly have no idea. I know that grandma Janice had a boy and a girl; twins who are my dad, Lyceus Harry and Melvinís mother Cyrene Theresa. Unfortunately Auntie Cyrene and her husband Richard died in a plane crash a year after our grandmothers died." She looked thoughtful a moment. "I guess itís been three years now that our grandmothersí have been dead, so thatíd make it two years for Melís parents. Grandma Melinda had a daughter, Gabrielle Covington Pappas who sort of dropped off the family radar. She was a few years younger than Lyceus and Cyrene. I never knew her; she disappeared before I was born.
They never mentioned who fathered their children or if it was the same father for each of them. I know there was an Uncle Otto who was pretty friendly with my grandmothers, but I donít know if it was him."
"How nice though, that you were able to get to know your grandmothers." Stevie said, taking a bite of salad.
Lizzy nodded. "I probably spent the most time with them. I used to visit every summer and got bitten by the archeology bug. Their death was a huge shock to all of us. Grandma Janice was still doing the occasional speaking engagement; she must have been in her late eighties. Grandma Mel would always go with her; they were inseparable. One night, heading home a drunk driver in a truck hit them head on. They were both killed instantly as was their driver." Lizzy sniffled and her eyes began to well up a little. "The good news was they both went together. Weíd had talks as a family as to what we would do with Grandma Janice assuming Grandma Melinda would die first as she was a few years older. At least neither of them had to go on alone. No one was shocked by the will, I was entrusted with the ëfamily businessí as it were." She took a sip of her beer. "What about your parents?"
Sarah snickered. "Stevie has the cool parent. Cool enough that she just needs one."
Stevie rolled her eyes. "Sheís only saying that because her parents are painfully normal."
"Obviously I was adopted," Sarah added. "My mom is a doctor, which helps when youíre in the stunt business and my dad is a stockbroker... also helpful when youíre in the stunt business."
Stevie sighed, resigned to her fate. "I was conceived backstage at a Fleetwood Mac concert. Mom was communing with her goddess and Iím sure some roadie took advantage of her inebriated state."
"Or maybe it was Mick?" Sarah asked hopefully.
"Needless to say, my mom is a little on the eccentric side. She is a complete believer in ghosts, séances, crystals, tarot, you name itóif itís unconventional and they have it in Sedona Arizona, then my mom is all over it." Stevie explained. "She had my astrology charts prepared before I started kindergarten. She gave them to the teacher as a reference tool."
Lizzy fought the urge to let her jaw drop.
"Your mother is adorable," Sarah countered. "Youíre just annoyed she likes me better."
Stevie took a sip of her beer and rolled her eyes at her friend. "Yeah, youíre exactly right Sarah."
"If you donít mind my saying so," Lizzy offered tentatively. "You guys seem to get along really well for ex-girlfriends."
"Weíre doing better now," Stevie acknowledged. "It was harder at the beginning, but you stick with it. My mom likes to point out that Stevie and Lindsey made the Rumors album during a break up. She says if they can get over their shit, thereís no reason the rest of us canít."
"You know how it is," Sarah said with a nod to Lizzy. "Sometimes you want to just split and you do, but with other people you know you have to keep them in your life, so you do, whatever it takes, simple as that."
Lizzy felt her cheeks redden and grow hot. As much as she wanted to invent something and make herself sound worldly she realized that anything she could possibly say to these two women would be seen through in an instant. She felt five years old and hated it. "Actually, I donít." she said quietly. "Iíve never had an ex-girlfriend. Ah... or girlfriend for that matter."
"Oh." Sarah said, blinking and looking a little shocked.
Stevie frowned at the brunette then turned her attention to Lizzy. "Youíre not missing anything," she said gently. "Theyíre very overrated... especially now."
"Ah... if you guys would excuse me, I need to use the restroom." Lizzy got up quickly and headed to the back of the building.
"What did I say?" Sarah asked when the archaeologist was out of earshot.
"Could you have looked more stunned when she said she hasnít had a girlfriend?" Stevie demanded, annoyed.
"As hot as she is?! Damn right Iím stunned." Sarah looked in the direction of the bathroom. "Maybe I should go check on her?"
"And make your case to be her first ex-girlfriend?" Stevie shook her head, annoyed. "I donít think so. Iíll go check on her."
Sarah shrugged feigning indifference and picked up her beer. "Suit yourself."
When Stevie entered the bathroom, Lizzy was still in one of the stalls. Sarah took a moment to touch up her makeup in the mirror. She noticed Lizzy exiting the stall. Her face was wet and a little streaked and she looked down as she approached the sinks.
"Iím so embarrassed," she said quietly.
Stevie touched up her lipstick and looked at the archaeologist in their reflection in the mirror. "You know how I spent my morning?" she asked. "I threw up on an airplane that had already arrived at the gate. We werenít even in the air. I woke from the nightmare and nearly didnít get to the airsick bag in time. Now that is embarrassing."
Lizzy smiled in spite of herself. "That is pretty embarrassing," she agreed.
"Then do you know what happened?" Stevie looked directly at soft green eyes in the mirror, "this incredibly sweet woman brought me mint tea. Embarrassment isnít terminal, it just feels that way."
The archaeologist nodded. "I just feel like parts of my life should be further along." She said quietly.
Stevie shrugged. "Things happen when they happen. It doesnít make you any less of who you are." She pulled out a compact from her purse and blotted her nose. "Youíre a smart woman, and know you can get laid any time youíd like. Iím impressed as hell youíre taking the time to meet someone you really want to be with. Would you like me to touch up your makeup?"
Lizzy blinked, not really sure if she believed what she was being told. "Sure," she said. Not that she was wearing any makeup to begin with but didnít really want this conversation to end either. "What do you mean I can get laid any time I want?"
Turning to face Lizzy, Stevie gently applied the powder to her tear streaked cheeks. "Youíre beautiful," she said simply. "Youíre smart, youíre very sweet, Iíve no doubt you could walk into the 209 and walk out with anyone you want." She finished with the powder and opened her lipstick, proficiently adding some color to the archaeologistís lips. "You tell me," she asked as she put the lipstick in her purse and pulled out some eye shadow and mascara. "Why havenít you connected with someone?"
Lizzy obediently closed her eyes and Stevie put a gentle hand on the side of the shorter womanís face to steady her as she applied the eye makeup; a little shadow first, then mascara and finally a touch of eyeliner. From where she stood the archaeologist could smell Stevieís perfume. It was light and clean smelling with a hint of an ocean breeze and something slightly dangerous. She could feel the taller womanís breath softly against her skin and the light touch of warm fingertips that made her skin tingle. This woman was impossibly close, focused completely on her face and it was making the archaeologistís head spin a little.
"I donít know," Lizzy replied honestly, fighting the urge to move forward and demand to be circled in a close embrace. "First I was focused on my studies, and then the work. I guess the longer I put things off the more afraid and behind the curve I felt." She shrugged, now fighting the urge to lean forward and press her lips against Stevieís throat. "I donít have the most social of jobs, and I travel quite a bit... I donít know, I honestly donít know."
"There, what do you think," Stevie asked stepping back from Lizzy and admiring her handiwork.
The archaeologist was sorry that the physical connection between them had been broken, but relieved that she no longer had to battle for self control. She looked at herself in the mirror. "Wow," she breathed.
"I whole heartedly agree," Stevie said.
It wasnít like the makeup was obvious, if anything it was understated and subtle. But the redness was gone from her cheeks and her lips and eyes demanded a bit more attention from the casual viewer. Stevie decided it was attention she didnít mind bestowing. "Why donít we take that house tour?" she asked, squeezing the smaller womanís shoulders warmly. "If at any point you feel daring, you only need to drop a hint to Sarah and she will be all over you like money on a Republican. Believe me, sheís only restraining herself at this point by sheer force of will."
Stevie left the bathroom first and led the way back to the table. As she followed, Lizzy was not certain that the brunetteís attention was the attention she wanted.
There was no mistaking the lingering look she received from the stuntwoman when she sat back down. Clearly her makeup had not gone unnoticed or unappreciated. When theyíd finished dinner Sarah couldnít stand fast enough and hold Stevieís leather jacket for Lizzy to wear. In an odd way it gave the archaeologist a sense of confidence that let her leave the embarrassment of her confession at the dining table as the trio left the restaurant.
True to her word Lizzy gave them a walking tour of Salem much richer than anything they would have received from a tourist outfit. They walked at a leisurely pace and she mentioned sights theyíd most definitely want to see in daylight. She gave a history of the town as it related to the buildings from the early colonial days and an overview of what it was that made the city famous. Both guests were attentive and asked questions. Lizzy was surprised that Sarah seemed genuinely interested in the history and chatted easily with her and Stevie when it came to matters of historical context. She was most interested in the ghost stories and seemed to pay particular attention when the archaeologist mentioned the trade routes to China.
"Iíve always had a thing for China," Sarah explained. "Never really knew why. Iíve never filmed there but I really want to go someday. Like your thing with Greece," she said looking at Stevie.
"Youíve never been to Greece?" Lizzy asked, stunned.
Stevie shook her head. "Nope. Iíve wanted to go, Iím fascinated about much of the place, especially the wine making. Yet every time I plan or think about planning a trip, something inside tells me Iím not ready. Itís strange."
Lizzy was impressed. "From what Iíve read of your work youíd never know."
Stevie smiled. "Itís amazing what you can pick up from research these days. Besides the Getty has an amazing collection and itís almost like Iím surrounded by Ancient Greece all the time.
Lizzy nodded. "I know that feeling."
As they talked they hit the main drag through town. There were tourists everywhere. Four days before Halloween and already people were wandering town in costumes. People were selling things from carts; mostly t-shirts, spell components and witchy jewelry. Everyone seemed to be enjoying the festive spirit and wishing each other a ëhappy Halloweení.
"This feels very much like a wiccan pride festival." Sarah observed with a grin. "Thatís pretty cool."
Stevie nodded in agreement. "My mom would go nuts for the clothes and jewelry," she said. "Remind me to pick some stuff up for her."
They continued on in companionable silence and came to an unobtrusive space next to a cemetery.
"Whatís this?" Stevie asked, immediately feeling a sense of peace.
"This is one of my favorite spots in town." She explained. "Itís the witch trials memorial."
The two Californians looked around. They were standing in a park like area right next to the cemetery. A low wall marked a rectangular space that was open on the sidewalk side. Six trees were planted, in two rows of three. Sticking out from the low stone wall were a series of benches that were made from large slabs of stone.
"Each of these twenty benches represents an individual falsely accused of witchcraft and put to death. Carved into the stones were the victimís name, the date they died and the manner in which they were executed. All were hanged, except Giles Corey who was unfortunately pressed to death. It took him three days to die. Most people accused were told theyíd go free if theyíd admit witchcraft, without all their property and possessions of course, and that is what most of them did. This space honors the people that felt that lying would be an affront to God and wouldnít do it. These are the people who really had faith in their beliefs. The six trees represent the six men who were murdered along with the fourteen women."
"I suppose itís fitting that the town is now the ëwitch capitalí of the United States," Stevie said absently. "I guess some things you do youíll never be able to shake, like a crime that can haunt you forever."
Lizzy shrugged. "Thatís one way to look at it. Or you could say that something very negative and intolerant has grown into the exact opposite. A celebration of the different, in spite of what my cousins other boarders think."
Sarah nodded in agreement. "I like Lizzyís spin better."
The memorial had finished a loop that the three women had walked through town and it didnít take long to walk back to Melís guesthouse. Lizzy was walking in between the two taller women and had to admit that she was enjoying the warmth and proximity of her companions immensely. Both were open and easy to talk to. There was an undertone of warmth and caring that permeated their interaction with each other that was inviting. Sarah was clearly more of the flirt, and at times seemed interested in seeing how far she could push before Stevie shot her an irritated glare. Stevie was kind and warm but kept what felt to Lizzy like a respectful distance. She couldnít help but notice the pleasant fragrance of Stevieís perfume that clung to the leather jacket that she found as warming as the jacket itself.
It was late when they arrived back in Melís kitchen. Lizzy let them in with her key and they noticed that minimal lights had been left on and that the house was quiet. "I canít believe weíve lasted this late," Stevie said quietly looking at the clock.
Sarah nodded. "Yeah, this was a really cool night, thanks Lizzy."
"The pleasure was mine. What did you guys have planned for tomorrow?"
The blond and brunette looked at each other. "We donít really have any plans. We thought weíd do some of the psychic stuff in the evening, but havenít thought about how to spend our day. Do you have any suggestions?"
Lizzy smiled, sheíd been trying to come up with some plans for most of the walk back to Melís. "If youíre interested in seeing the Atlantic, we can take a drive to the beach," she suggested. When two sets of eyes lit up she knew that rumors of Californians and their weakness for coastlines to be true. "Excellent, just have Mel give me a ring when you guys are up and about and Iíll head over."
"Do you live far from here?" Stevie asked.
Lizzy shook her head. "About ten minutes by bicycle. Iíll see you guys tomorrow." She was surprised and delighted that each woman gave her a warm hug before quietly heading upstairs. Her hand had grasped the back door knob when she realized she was still wearing Stevieís jacket. Quietly, as not to wake the other guests, she headed upstairs.
"What do you think of her?" Sarah asked when theyíd closed the door to their room.
"Sheís very sweet, whatís not to like?" Stevie asked and looked at Sarah suspiciously as she began to undress for bed.
Sarah didnít say anything for a moment and heard the faintest of creaks outside the door, and then she remembered Stevieís Jacket. "Iíd like to spend more time with her while weíre here." She said quietly, knowing full well her voice would carry to the door.
"I think thatís a great idea." Stevie agreed.
"What would you say if I said I wanted to spend time alone with her while weíre here." Sarah asked carefully. She was sure sheíd heard another creak but was equally sure that Stevie, standing on the far side of the bed and getting undressed had not.
The blonde woman stopped brushing her hair and turned to her companion. "I would ask if this is about you or about me? Are you interested in throwing moves at her because youíre looking to get laid? Or are you just trying to see how far you can go before I get really hurt and beat the crap out of you? I have been as understanding as I can be at all of the different women youíve had over in the last four months. Is it really necessary for you to hit on someone right in front of me? Or are you really falling for her and feel like you canít help yourself? Because honestly I donít think sheís ready for someone like you."
Sarahís eyes narrowed. "What do you mean she isnít ready for someone like me?" she asked.
Stevie put the brush down. "Emotionally Sarah, youíre a whirlwind. Youíre exciting; youíre funny, smart, and attentive as hell when you want to be, caring and great in bed. But youíre also self-absorbed and I know you. You would find her intriguing, a challenge, something novel and when you were finished youíd move on and not worry about it."
The stuntwoman crossed her arms. "I didnít do that to you, or are you forgetting that Iím standing right here."
"Youíre standing right here because you know Iím a fucking mess and you feel a little responsible for it, you also know Iím one of the few people who will flat out call you on your shit and you know you need that in your life." Stevie put her hands on her hips.
Sarah stared at her friend and cracked a grin. "Stevie for godís sake put on a shirt. I canít argue with you topless. I suppose you think youíre much better for her?"
Stevie pulled a t-shirt over her head that matched the boxers she was wearing for bed. "Absolutely not. I wouldnít inflict myself on anyone right now. But lets say for the sake of argument that my depression took a vacation and I wasnít such a mess..." She thought for a moment. "Yeah, Iíd be interested. As sad as it makes me that my first impulse is not to win you back, but weíve tried that more than once and know we know we donít fit that way anymore and we are going to get over it even if it kills us. There is something about Lizzy... I dunno. I really like her. Sheís got this whole redemptive vibe. You just feel good in her presence. But she lives in Salem, I live in Santa Monica and..." she shrugged. "And I just met her today. Still, she gives me this feeling, like I know her or something. It really makes me want to protect her from me or people like me, which sadly leaves her vulnerable to people like you."
"Youíre just saying that because you can tell she likes me better." Sarah said, teasingly.
"Why wouldnít she?" Stevie asked honestly. "Youíre gorgeous, youíre fun, youíre happy... whatís not to be crazy about?"
"I think she likes smart girls and youíve got me there." Sarah allowed.
Stevie nodded. "Thatís true. Now get into bed and keep your hands to yourself."
Sarah paused for a moment by the door. When she heard a soft creak move away she shut out the light and crawled into bed.
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